Wildlife activists in Vietnam on Wednesday released 20 pangolins back to the wild after they were rescued from traffickers in June.
Forest rangers in the northern province of Ninh Binh saved the animals on June 19 just in time. They were transported in tight nets from Hue in central Vietnam and could have ended up in local restaurants.
The Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program (CPCP), a cooperation between the national not-for-profit organization Save Vietnam’s Wildlife and Cuc Phuong National Park in the province, had taken care of the animals until they proved fit enough to go back to nature.
Some of the pangolins gained between one to 1.5 kilograms, members of the program said.
“This is a positive sign for pangolin conservation in Vietnam, because the chance of the animal surviving in confined spaces is low,” Tran Quang Phuong, a manager of the program, told news website VnExpress.
Local conservationists have repeatedly criticized a rule that requires animals seized from traffickers to be kept as crime evidence for quite a long time. They requested that the animals be released immediately to their habitat.
At least 30 pangolins received by CPCP died last year due to the long process. At another rescue center in Hanoi, 300 pangolins have also died in similar circumstances, including 80 this year.
Vietnam bans the trade of pangolins and any products made from the animal.
The animal’s meat is considered a delicacy by some while its scales are used to make boots and shoes and to treat conditions such as psoriasis and poor circulation in traditional Chinese medicine. Such practices have not been backed by adequate scientific evidence.