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In Vietnam, pangolins are consumed in restaurants as well as being valued for their scales in traditional medicine. While the demand for pangolin meat and scales is a growing problem in Vietnam, the majority of pangolins being traded are destined for China. Pangolin consumption and trade have made these creatures one of the most endangered groups of mammals in the world.
Photo: Sunda pangolin (Source: Leanne Clark – CPCP)
Vietnam is home to two species of pangolins: the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) and the Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica). Pangolins, also known as ‘scaly anteaters’, are covered in hard protective scales. Pangolins use their long, sticky tongue, which they can extend as much as 40cm, to eat ants and termites, and roll themselves into a ball when threatened by predators. Unfortunately, this defense method makes them vulnerable to poachers.
The two species are fully protected under Vietnam’s wildlife protection laws, Decree 160 (2013) and Decree 32 (2006), as well as banned from commercial trade under the international treaty regulating the trade of endangered wildlife, CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). It is illegal to hunt, trap, keep, kill, transport, sell or advertise pangolins or pangolin products in Vietnam.
In Vietnam, pangolins are commonly consumed as specialty dishes at restaurants, soaked and served in wine, or used in traditional medicine. While the demand for pangolin meat and scales is a growing problem in Vietnam, the majority of traded pangolins are being smuggled to China.
Pangolins are hunted in Vietnam’s forests, as well as smuggled live across the border into Vietnam from Cambodia and Laos through border gates in the central provinces such as in Ha Tinh. Frozen meat and pangolin scales are often trafficked by sea. More recently, shipments have included pangolins from Africa.
Since 2005, ENV has documented more than 69 tons of frozen pangolins and pangolin scales seized from smugglers at Hai Phong, northern Vietnam’s export hub. This is a major seaport in Vietnam where pangolins are often smuggled into the country before being transported north by road to the border at Mong Cai and into China.
Most live pangolins are destined for Chinese markets, though some find their way to restaurants or traditional medicine shops in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and other major cities.
ENV focuses its activities on three major program areas that comprise ENV’s integrated strategic approach for addressing illegal wildlife trade in Vietnam.
1. Strengthening enforcement
Since 2005, ENV has sought to strengthen enforcement by working closely with law enforcement agencies, and mobilizing active public participation in helping combat wildlife crime.
Since 2010, ENV’s Wildlife Crime Unit has recorded 827 cases involving pangolins, comprising 8.8% of all cases documented during the period.
Many cases were reported by members of the public through the ENV National Wildlife Crime Hotline.
|A live pangolin in a local restaurant in Binh Dinh, a southern-central province of Vietnam was reported via ENV hotline and rescued on October 5, 2014
(Case number: 7613/ENV)
|Two live pangolins kept in a resident house in Binh Duong were reported via ENV hotline and rescued on Oct 8, 2014
(Case number: 7612/ENV)
Starting in 2013, ENV began major consumer crime reduction enforcement campaigns in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi targeting restaurants, TCM shops, bars, and other businesses advertising and selling wildlife, including pangolins. ENV’s 2013-2015 campaign has resulted in an overall reduction of 58% in consumer crime in the both cities, with reduction in some districts by as much as 77%. ENV continues to target new districts and expand the consumer crime reduction campaign to other major cities in Vietnam.
In 2015, ENV launched a campaign targeting traditional medicine (TCM) shops in approximately 16 cities, aimed at securing voluntary compliance in removing pangolin scales from their premises.
ENV investigators are piecing together a better picture of the criminal networks that are actively engaged in the sourcing, smuggling, and trade of pangolins in Vietnam.
2. Promoting sound policy and decision making
ENV’s policy and legislative team works with decision makers at the national and provincial level to ensure that existing laws are implemented and enforced effectively. ENV also promotes changes in legislation and development of new laws that will strengthen protection of pangolins and other endangered wildlife.
Recently, a major effort began to ensure that pangolin cases are handled by provincial governments in accordance with the law, following the listing of pangolins as fully protected under a new law issued in early 2014. ENV’s efforts include prohibiting the practice of auctioning off confiscated pangolins by authorities, and ensuring that smugglers and traders are criminally prosecuted for pangolin-related crimes, in accordance with the new law.
3. Reducing consumer demand for pangolins
In order to see long term reduction in the trade of pangolins and pangolin products, ENV recognizes the need to educate the public and influence consumer behavior. Since early 2014, ENV has been conducting a major demand reduction program targeting potential consumers of pangolins and pangolin products. The program includes:
The production and airing of public service announcements (PSAs) reporting on the crisis facing pangolins and calling on the public to report pangolin crimes to ENV’s national toll free hotline. This 2016 Pangolin Crime Fighter PSA urged the public to be more active in reporting pangolin crimes to local authorities or ENV’s wildlife crime hotline 1800 1522. After a month, 86 channels broadcasted the PSA, including some cable channels that have aired the PSA every 45 minutes for more than a month.
The Pangolin Crime Fighter PSA was produced thanks to the full support of CNN readers all over the world.
Partnering with 10 ministries, including Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Foreign Affair, Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to display pangolin awareness panels at the entrances to their offices urging government staff to say ‘NO’ to pangolin consumption. The awareness panels also encouraged them to report pangolin crimes to local authorities or ENV’s hotline.