Wild animals caged for months after rescue due to long legal process: experts

By Khanh An, Thanh Nien News

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Smuggled pangolins rescued in Thanh Hoa Province in August. Photo credit: Save Vietnam's Wildlife Smuggled pangolins rescued in Thanh Hoa Province in August. Photo credit: Save Vietnam's Wildlife

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Animals seized from illegal wildlife traders should be released immediately to their habitat, instead of being kept as crime evidence for a long time, conservationists said. 
Nguyen Van Thai, director of Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, said investigation agencies only need to take pictures of the rescued animals and record information on the number, the species and the weight. 
However, Vietnamese investigators often choose to keep the wild animals until the case is closed, he said. 
Vietnam has shown progress in wildlife protection, including convicting people involved in the poaching and trading of endangered species, he said.
“But we still need to change the law further to release these animals to the wild early,” said Thai.
In August, the Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program launched by Save Vietnam’s Wildlife and the Cuc Phuong National Park received 60 pangolins that relevant agencies seized from illegal traders in the northern provinces of Thanh Hoa and Ninh Binh.
A total of 70 pangolins have recovered and are ready to return to their wild habitat.
However, police and park rangers in Thanh Hoa and Ninh Binh did not allow the center to release the animals to the wild.
The officers said it can only be done after the case is handled, according to Save Vietnam’s Wildlife.
In reality, there were cases that last for several months and many seized animals died while being kept at animal facilities, the organization said.
Tran Quang Phuong, program manager at Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, said that it also costs a lot to feed the animals.
“It costs VND1.41 million a month to feed a pangolin. Thus, food for 70 pangolins may cost VND98.7 million (nearly US$4,400) a month.”
Pangolins seized from smugglers in Thanh Hoa Province. Photo credit: Save Vietnam's Wildlife.
Pangolins are solitary animals and keeping more than one in a cage will create pressure that can be fatal for them, he said.
Thai said it is common in many countries where pangolins are released to the wild soon after being rescued.
Long legal procedures in Vietnam affect many other wild animals, not just pangolins, he said.
He urged lawmakers to amend the Penal Code that stipulates the release of seized wildlife immediately after being rescued.

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