4 min read

Police Catch Smugglers And Find The Saddest Surprise

They were so scared.

Seventy endangered pangolins were on their way to China to be killed for their scales and meat - but they were found just in time.

The animals were seized from smugglers by police this week at the border between Vietnam and Laos, and suspects were taken in for questioning.

Save Vietnam's Wildlife

Now the the people at Save Vietnam's Wildlife are working tirelessly to help the pangolins - the most illegally trafficked mammal on Earth - survive.

But it's touch and go with their dozens of new patients because the animals are very weak after they were force-fed corn powder to make them weigh more (and increase their value) and tied up in tiny bags.

Save Vietnam's Wildlife

Pangolins are naturally shy, nocturnal creatures who curl up into a tight little ball when frightened, so an ordeal like this can literally scare them to death.

"This made them really weak," Phap Nguyen, communications officer for Save Vietnam's Wildlife, told The Dodo. The pangolins were caught in the wild using traps, which caused injury to many of the animals' little arms and claws.

Save Vietnam's Wildlife

"This big rescue added up to 130 pangolins in our quarantine right now, which is over our capacity," Nguyen said. "As a result, three or four pangolins have to share a room - not good for them but we have no other choices."

Already, one pangolin has died due to his injuries, and Nguyen fears they could lose more. "Several others look really bad," he said. But rescuers aren't giving up.

Save Vietnam's Wildlife

Every five minutes, a pangolin is captured in Asia or Africa to be sold in East Asia for his meat or scales, which are mistakenly thought to have medicinal properties. An estimated one million pangolins were traded illegally in the last decade, and demand keeps growing. Between 2011 and 2013, an estimated 116,990 to 233,980 pangolins were killed.

The rescue of the 70 pangolins is the biggest Save Vietnam Wildlife has had so far. "We really need help for this case," Nguyen said.

You can help these pangolins have a fighting chance. The Wildlife Conservation Network is helping Save Vietnam Wildlife with this huge influx of patients by doubling all donations sent through this page.