The second part: Fattening the pangolins for sale
Date: 10th May, 2010
The pangolins are transported to the largest trader in town to be later sold to smaller traders. They are pumped full of starch in order to increase their weight before being sold in Hanoi.
The ‘pump’ team
The pangolins are transported from the Cau Treo border gate to a private home sitting at the foot of a hill in town. Small traders had placed their orders in advance, from orders ranging between 50-60 kgs, to large orders between 300 and 500 kgs. Traders are expert at choosing the best: those that are healthy; uninjured, short tag or long tag, and yellow or black in color. One hundred kilograms of pangolin costs 270 million Vietnamese dong. Retailers order between 20 and 50 kg. Once the pangolins are sorted, a trader contacts the four motor riders to transport the loads from the gathering point.
After the collection, Huong went to a relative’s house where we witnessed the technique of filling the pangolins with starch. Under the careful watch of Huong, everything was done professionally and in order: placing pangolins into cages, packing into nets, tying, and keeping them cool with ice.
The starch was made from cooked rice flour. Six people were divided into two groups, and ready themselves for the procedure. Pangolins were taken from the cages and held still by a strong male in the group. A spout was put down the pangolins throat, which was attached to a hand-made pump. The procedure must be done carefully and skillfully because if the spout is inserted incorrectly, into the windpipe for example, the starch could kill the pangolin instantly. Another person pumped the starch slowly through the spout until the stomach was full; each pangolin weighs an extra 2-5kg after the procedure. Pumping them full with too much starch makes the pangolins vomit. The group completed the procedure swiftly and expertly and once the ‘feeding’s is complete, the pangolins were packed for transport.
At about 7pm, Huong organized to meet a person at a pre-arranged location. The motor riders were also waiting, carrying two 2 packages weighing 80 kg. They were well-equipped with water, knives and flashlights in case of emergency. Around 30 minutes later, the team started its journey at a speed that frightened everyone it passed on the 8A National Highway. It drove quickly through Huong Son town and onto Nghe An province. It drove even faster in areas where rangers and police were known to have been waiting on previous occasions. Just before reaching a forest path in Thanh Chuong District, Nghe An, the team slowed down, turned off the vehicle’s lights and turned into the forest path. Suddenly we could see Huong standing beside a luxurious car. In the dark, the containers were loaded in the trunk and under the seat with ice. The drivers changed their number plates to avoid the attention of authorities, choosing from an assortment of plates bearing identification from different provinces. Huong and his driver left for Hanoi. The motor riders followed the car until the coast was clear. Each driver earned 300000 Vietnamese dong that evening.
Translated by Pham Linh Chi on May 19th 2010; Edited by Simone Nance on May 21st 2010
Please note: Translated by Education for Nature – Vietnam. This translation is unofficial in nature. The Vietnamese language version of this story can be obtained by contacting ENV.