A court in Ho Chi Minh City on Monday sentenced four people to up to one and a half years in jail for trafficking pangolins.
Vo Ta Dung, 54, had the longest jail term. Two of his accomplices received five months and 11 days, which was the detention period, and were released after the trial. The other got a suspended sentence of one year.
The operation was busted last December when two members were caught driving three Manis javanica, a pangolin species native to Southeast Asia which has been classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as critically endangered.
Vietnam treats the animal as a protected species and bans its use for commercial purposes.
The group said they were hired by Dung from September 2015 to transport pangolins bought from hunters in Ho Chi Minh City to a storage in the neighboring Binh Duong Province.
From there, the gang has delivered at least 12 pangolins to buyers in northern Vietnam, police found.
Pangolins, also known as anteaters, are facing high threats as its meat is considered a delicacy by some while its scales are used to make boots and shoes. The scales are also used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat conditions such as psoriasis and poor circulation, despite the lack of adequate scientific evidence.