On Monday, police arrested a driver and his wife after suspecting that they were illegally trafficking animals from Laos. When the bus was pulled over, they found dozens of live pangolins in central Vietnam.

Police and conservationists said they found the 30 animals “dehydrated and weak” in a statement on Tuesday. They were all stuffed into boxes on a bus bound to Ha Tinh province. Truong Van Truong from the NGO Save Vietnam’s Wildlife claimed four were already dead, while the others were in bad shape.

“Most were dehydrated and weak because they were kept in a tight space for a long time,” he told AFP in an interview.

This handout from Save Vietnam’s Wildlife taken on July 29, 2019, and released on July 30, 2019, shows pangolins, which were found on a bus, in Ha Tinh province. (Photo by Handout / SAVE VIETNAM’S WILDLIFE / AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

They were tied into individual sacks that had been then crammed into boxes, where the pangolins might have been kept for weeks with very little water or food.

Pangolins have been categorized as critically endangered animals by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as their numbers drastically decreased over the past years thanks to rampant poaching and habitat loss. They used to roam free in Vietnam’s forests, but they are now considered as a highly-prized delicacy.

Vietnam pangolin meat is said to be a high-end type of meat that is very hard to find. Their scales, on the other hand, are often used in traditional medicine to treat allergies and impotence.

It has been reported that the driver and his wife were paid to transport the animals from Laos. This rescue comes after major wildlife seizures took place over the past week in Vietnam.

Police arrested three people after finding seven dead tiger cubs in their car in a Hanoi parking lot on Thursday, and on the same day, 275 pounds (125 kilograms) of rhino horns were seized at the capital’s airport.

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– Protecting the pangolin: Why the only scaly mammal in the world is almost extinct