HA NOI - Northern Bac Ninh Province's Forest Protection Department (FPD) has been attacked by the organisation Education for Nature Viet Nam after it put 42 Javan pangolins (Manis javanica), an endangered species, up for auction last Monday.
Earlier, the Ministry of Public Security's Environmental Police Department had rescued the pangolins from wildlife traffickers.
Police handed the animals over to the FPD on February 1.
Education for Nature Viet Nam (ENV) said that the Javan pangolins was on a list of endangered, rare and precious species prioritised for protection.
Under the Government decree No 160/ND-CP, animals rescued from wildlife traffickers, must be set free if they are in good health. If in poor health, they must be handed over to rescue centres. The document was issued in 2013 and took effect early last year.
ENV said that the FPD's move not only returned the pangolins to the illicit market, but also violated regulations on the protection of wildlife and undermined laws aimed at deterring and preventing illegal hunters.
The department said the animals were in poor health and were dealt with under Government decree No 157/ND-CP issued in 2013.
Under the article 6 of the decree, authorised agencies can fine traffickers and sell the exhibits immediately at local market prices. Money from sales was sent to the State Treasury.
The department said that the provincial People's Committee approved the sale of the pangolins.
The pangolins weighed about 200kg and fetched up to VND1.2 million (S$76) per kilogramme.
However, Hoang Thi Thanh Nhan, deputy head of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment's Biodiversity Conservation Department, said the pangolins were protected under decree No 160.
Nhan also said that all violations related to illegally dealing in pangolins must be punished following the Law Amending and Supplementing a number of articles of the 2009 Penal Code.
ENV said that the department was confused in dealing with rare wild animals rescued from traffickers.
It said it would co-operate with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment; and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the local People's Committee to try and bring the situation under control.