The prestigious Goldman Prize for the environment, nicknamed the “Green Nobel”, was awarded on Tuesday to Nguyen Van Thai.

This Vietnamese animal activist has been awarded for saving hundreds of pangolins in his country.

These mammals are the most poached in the world because of their scales, known to act on arthritis, ulcers, tumors and menstrual pain in traditional Chinese medicine.

These virtues, however, have never been scientifically established.

Millions of pangolins have been killed in recent years, victims of large-scale trafficking, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

“The number of pangolins in the wild in Vietnam has declined by more than 90% over the past 15 years,” lamented Nguyen Van Thai, director of Save Vietnam's Wildlife (SVW).

"High risk of extinction"

His team treated nearly 1,600 of these mammals before releasing them into the wild and is developing a breeding program for the Chinese-type pangolin, facing a "high risk of extinction".

My goal is "to attract young people and the Vietnamese population as a whole to join in the work of protecting the forest, wildlife and the environment," said Nguyen Van Thai.

Vietnam has recently stepped up its fight against pangolin trafficking.

In 2018, he revised a law protecting endangered species which toughened penalties.

Now, this crime is punishable by 15 years in prison and fines of over 550,000 euros.

Arrests of traffickers increased sharply last year, according to the NGO Education for Nature in Vietnam (ENV).

Withdrawn from Chinese pharmacies thanks to the coronavirus

Hanoi has also stepped up border controls and launched a campaign to verify that pharmacies do not sell drugs containing animals from illegal trade.

The pangolin was once suspected of having played a role in the transmission to humans of the coronavirus that appeared in China at the end of 2019, before scientists questioned this hypothesis.

Beijing has since withdrawn it from the Chinese pharmacopoeia.


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