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Delayed decision leads to death of 30 pangolins

Update: November, 11/2015 - 18:29
The pangolins were waiting for being returned to natural habitat before nearly half of them has died. — Photo savevietnamswildlife.org

 NINH BINH (VNS) — Thirty pangolins kept in northern Ninh Binh Province's Cuc Phuong National Park have died while they were waiting for an official decision to be returned to their habitat.

In August, the Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Education Centre rescued 60 pangolins from the Thanh Hoa and Ninh Binh provinces which made the total pangolins the centre cared for were 70.

A petition had been sent to the provinces' relevant authorities soon after that, but they had not yet responded, a staffer from the centre, Tran Quang Phuong said on Tuesdday.

"As this species only eats ants and termites, we had petitioned the authority to return them back to the forest, but thirty pangolins died while waiting for a decision," Phuong said.

"The feeding cost, at around VND1.4 million (US$62) for each pangolin per month, is very high. The infrastructure of the centre does not allow us to breed such a large number over a prolonged period," Phuong said.

"It costs nearly VND99 million (US$4,400) to feed 70 pangolins per month. However, the centre's budget for animal rescue is limited and totally dependent on non-profit donations from domestic and foreign organisations and individuals," Director of Save Vietnam's Wildlife, Nguyen Van Thai said.

Though Viet Nam had made changes in its endangered wild animal protection policy, guidance in handling wild animals kept as proof was still inadequate, said Thai.

According to Article 76 of Litigation Code Set 2003, wild animals were considered as proof of illegal cases after being confiscated, and a decision to confiscate and handle them was released only until the case ended.

In reality, however, some cases may last for months and wild animals may die after being kept there for an indefinite period, said Thai.

"This is quite likely to happen as many animals only eat food from natural resources and are not used to living in an artificial environment, Thai added.

It was a challenge for the rescue centre to take care of the pangolins with funds from international sources, Director of Viet Nam CITIES Management Agency, Ha Thi Tuyet Nga said.

The state budget reserved for wild animal protection work was still limited and it was used to pay the salary of the staff, spent on scientific research and other conservation activities, Nga said.

To sustain a continuous food resource for pangolins without a clear policy, the national park needed to have a proposal and scheme for the authority to grant funds, Nga said.

Nga added, "It is, however, hard to say as the park never knows how many animals they will confiscate this year to be able to determine the funds needed."

To solve this problem, they need a guidance circular or a legal document to ensure that special cases like this would be handled appropriately, a representative of Nature Conservation Agency said on October 19.

It was difficult and may take two years to build a circular or legal document at this time, the representative added.

Though the other 40 pangolins were in good condition and well-cared for, the centre would continue to seek permission to return them to their natural habitat, Phuong said. — VNS

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