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Police in the northern province of Hoa Binh on Wednesday seized 118 pangolins smuggled in a car during a long chase that ended with the police shooting two of the car’s tires.

Officers were chasing after the car for dozens of kilometers after it had refused to stop for a check on Wednesday night, the police said in a statement.

The car subsequently crashed into a motorbike and a parked car, causing slight damage to both vehicles.

The police said they decided to shoot one of the car’s tires after the driver did not stop at a warning shot. He only stopped after two tires of the car were shot flat.

Two men then got out of the car to run away. Police have arrested the driver and are still looking for the other.

A total of 118 pangolins, weighing more than 550 kilograms, were found tied in bags. Five of them were already dead.

Vietnam is home to Javan and Chinese pangolin species, both of which are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as critically endangered, and their populations have fallen rapidly in recent years.

The defenseless anteaters are the biggest victim of wildlife trafficking as their meat is considered a delicacy by some while their scales are used to make boots and shoes. Many also believe that the scales can be used as an effective treat for conditions such as psoriasis and poor circulation in traditional Chinese medicine, despite the lack of scientific evidence.

Education for Nature-Vietnam, one of Vietnam’s few locally based conservation groups, said that the country is a transit point for pangolin trafficking networks.

Hanoi customs on Tuesday found two shipments full of pangolin scales sent to Noi Bai Airport from Ghana. In early March, a shipment from Cameroon to Noi Bai was also found to contain 375 kilograms of pangolin scales.

AFP said in a recent report that around one million pangolins have been poached from Asian and African forests over the past decade, putting them on the list of species at the highest risk of extinction.

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The car chase that ensued on a major road in Vietnam led to an unexpected discovery: a load of 118 critically endangered pangolins weighing 556kg.

Local police in the province of Ha Tinh knew something was amiss when the driver of a minivan refused to stop for a routine inspection at a traffic police checkpoint. Instead, the driver barreled through it, damaging two police vehicles. The officers gave chase and shot the tires of the car. Two wildlife traffickers escaped from the van, but the driver was apprehended.

That’s when officers, while inspecting the vehicle, discovered 118 critically endangered pangolins wrapped up tightly in bags and piled on top of each other. The animals had had no access to food or water, but 113 of them had managed to survive and are now being looked after by staffers of the conservationist group Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, who will release them back into the wild.

This time the animals were lucky. Many of them were still alive when they were accidentally discovered by law enforcement officials. Only recently, a large haul of pangolin scales, weighing 357kg, was discovered at a Vietnamese airport, in yet another case of rampant wildlife trafficking that has been driving all eight subspecies of pangolins ever closer to the verge of extinction across the wild in Africa and Asia.

In just one decade, some 1 million pangolins have been poached and sold for their meat and scales with a shocking 100,000 of them done so every single year. Vietnam has served as a major transit hub for the illegal trade in the animals. Over the past decade authorities in Vietnam have seized 54.8 tons of pangolins and 14.7 tons of scales. Meanwhile, populations of Sunda pangolins, which also inhabit some of Malaysia’s forests, have plummeted by around 80% in recent years.

Pangolins, the world’s “most trafficked mammals,” are highly sought as ingredients in Chinese medicine and as meat in exotic dishes across much of Southeast Asia. Recently the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has voted to issue a total ban on the sale of all eight pangolin subspecies from Asia to Africa.

We must all must remain vigilant and step up the war on poaching and trafficking everywhere.

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On March 7, 2017, Director General of the Customs Department, Director General of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, and Deputy Commissioner General of the Royal Thai Police, released a press statement on the seizure of African ivories. The press statement was held in the 3rd floor conference room of Suvarnabhumi Airport Cargo Clearance Customs Bureau. The 422 pieces of cut ivory were hidden amidst raw gemstones and colored rocks in boxes. The boxes were documented to be carrying solely raw gemstone. The seized contraband weighted a total of 330 kilograms and valued at 17 million Baht in market price. Along with the evidences, 1 suspect was turned in to Suvarnabhumi Airport Police Station for further legal procedures.

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