A Can Tho seafood company in the Mekong Delta refused to obey an order to destroy 30 tons of invasive red-eared sliders it has improperly imported.
Instead, the company asked to freeze the turtles to turn them into animal feed.
Leaders of Can Tho Seafood Import and Export Company (Caseamex) didn't show up to the scheduled turtle execution on Thursday and their guards prevented officials in Vinh Long Province from seeing the turtles when they arrived at their facility.
Caseamex imported nearly 26,400 sliders from the US company Oakland Ninja and sent them to Vinh Long to be bred for meat. More than 8,000 have died awaiting a mandated return to the States.
Early last month, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development asked Caseamex and Vinh Long Province to destroy the sliders. It is said that the species is likely to invade the habitat of local turtles and that they can spread typhoid.
The animals have already been spotted in open water throughout the Mekong Delta.
After the US firm refused to take the sliders back, Vinh Long agricultural authorities sent notes giving Caseamex four days to destroy the animas.
On Thursday (the deadline), the officials were not allowed to see the turtles. They were only lead to two holes in the middle of an abandoned fish pond, where the turtles were supposedly going to be poisoned with chloride.
The company only sent two employees to meet the officials and the pair claimed they didn't know anything about the matter.
Instead, they delivered a letter written by the company's General Director Vo Dong Duc asking permission to freeze them and process them into animal feed.
But many people are concerned that the solution would take a lot of time. It takes 20 minutes to process one kilogram of red-eared slider meat, according to a test.
And there are 30 tons of turtles at issue here.
The red-eared slider turtle (Trachemys scripta elegans) is native to North America and was included in the list of the world's 100 worst invasive species by the Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG) - a global network of scientific and policy experts on invasive species.
Vietnamese conservation experts have complained that the country lacks legal backbone and scientific wherewithal to deal with invasive species from overseas.
Several invasives have already become established in Vietnam, making the ecosystem less hospitable to native species.