Largest confiscation of endangered big-headed turtles in Quang Ninh Province, Vietnam

The most magnificent animal in the shipment must have lived happily in the wild for decades, hopefully, it can be in the wild again next year. Photo by: Pham Van Thong – ATP/IMC.

On the 05th November 2016, Economic police of Quang Ninh province, near the border with China in northern Vietnam, confiscated 105 big-headed turtles (Platysternon megacephalum) and 149 Sunda pangolins (Manis javanica) weighing 738kg in total along with 172kg of pangolin scales (unidentified species). The shipment was being illegally transported in a refrigerated truck (number plate 92C-09397) from Quang Nam province to Mong Cai border gate. An initial investigation revealed that these animals were loaded in Nghe An and Ha Tinh province in central Vietnam.

On the same day, 89 live big-headed turtles with an estimated weight of 40kg and 12 pangolins weighing 51kg were transferred to the Hanoi wildlife rescue centre (Hanoi RC) in Soc Son district, on the outskirt of Hanoi. Unfortunately, 16 big-headed turtles and 137 pangolins could not make it to the rescue centres due to the poor keeping condition during the illegal trade.

On the 9th of November the surviving 74 Big-headed Turtles have been transferred to the Turtle Conservation Centre (TCC) of Cuc Phuong National Park. The Asian Turtle Program (ATP) of Indo Myanmar Conservation (IMC) has worked to prepare equipment and the quarantine facilities to support the rescue.  But with already over 180 animals confiscated in the past few months in the quarantine station and a total of over 1,000 animals in the centre our facilities are stretched. We hope that in the spring of next year we can undertake releases of some of these animals.

But right now a focus will be on these new animals which are already very weak and will need immediate care and support if they are to survive.

The recovery will be long and costly and will require additional resources to stabilize, treat, and save these animals. If you would like to support care and rehabilitation of these animals, or support our release plans for 2017 please contact us at: or you can make a donation at:

Please remember even a small donation of $10 – $50 will go a long way.

We would like to send our appreciation for those who have offered supports to the TCC and ATP for rescues in the past year, including the World Land Trust, Bristol Zoo, Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Cleveland Metroparks Zoo (CMZ), the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) and the National Capital American Association of Zoo Keepers (NCAAZK). We would also like to thank all the authorities, especially Hanoi Wildlife Rescue Centre for their successes in rescuing tortoise and freshwater turtles.

Press release by: Hoang Van Ha – ATP/IMC & Do Thanh Hao – TCC.
Date: 09th November 2016

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