3 min read

People Just Tried To Kill 40 Porcupines For These 'Magical' Stones

They think they have healing properties.

Dozens of lives were saved just in time, thanks to a last-minute tip that led to a tense chase in Indonesia. 

Even though the smugglers, who turned out to be two Indonesian soldiers, tried to speed away, they stopped their car once police blocked their way. When authorities opened the back hatch of the vehicle, they found 40 wild porcupines shoved in cages, the news outlet Mongabay originally reported.

Truck full of smuggled porcupines
Pasaman Conservation Agency

Malayan porcupines are under threat because of hunting and habitat loss, but also because something that can grow in their stomachs is considered magical by practitioners of Chinese medicine. 

Porcupines in cage seized from traffickers
Pasaman Conservation Agency

Bezoar stones — which grow in the stomachs of only some porcupines after they've consumed certain kinds of herbs and grasses — were believed in the Middle Ages to be an antidote to poison and are now mistakenly believed to be magical cures for cancer and diabetes. But traffickers cash in on the superstition: A piece of stone weighing less than half a gram can fetch 700 Malaysian ringgit, the equivalent of about $170 USD.

Sadly, many porcupines don't even have the stones in their stomachs when they are sold just to be killed. And while it is illegal to traffic Malayan porcupines, the laws can be hard to enforce. The two soldiers who were detained for trafficking the 40 porcupines were permitted to go back to their military base after simply promising never to do such a thing again.

Malayan porcupines
Shutterstock

Luckily, the 40 porcupines were swiftly brought back where they belong. Pasaman conservation authorities released the animals in a wildlife reserve. 

Malayan porcupine
Shutterstock
You can help by spreading the word that there's no way to get a bezoar stone without sacrificing an animal's life. You can also make a donation to International Animal Rescue, which helps rescue wildlife in Indonesia.