CHANGSHA -- A total of 19 smuggled live Sunda pangolins were found by police in central China"s Hunan Province, the provincial forestry bureau said Wednesday.
The Sunda pangolins, also known as the Malayan or Javan pangolin, were found on a coach heading to Hunan from Guangxi on May 17. The animals were immediately sent to the Hunan Wildlife Conservation Center.
Most of the pangolins were in critical condition due to long-term transportation in an enclosed environment, and seven of them died in the following 10 days, according to Li Li, head of the center. The remaining 12 pangolins are being treated in isolated wards. Some of them are able to eat or drink on their own.
Special food and a nebulizer have been provided by the Guangdong Institute of Applied Biological Resources to help the pangolins recover and lower the incidence of pneumonia. Experts are also searching for termites, the main element in their diet, to feed them.
Experts are still discussing how to deal with the smuggled Sunda pangolins, as releasing them into the wild in China may damage local ecosystems, while sending them home is also difficult because their origins are hard to trace, according to Yang Daode, professor at the Central South University of Forestry and Technology.
The Sunda pangolin mainly lives in Southeast Asia and is listed together with the Chinese pangolin as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The pangolin is the world"s most heavily trafficked mammal. In China, those who catch, kill, buy or sell endangered wild animals on the state"s protection list can face more than 10 years in prison, plus fines.