Record Seizure of Pangolin Scales in Singapore
April 03: More than 12.9 tonnes of pangolin scales, one of the world’s most endangered species, have been seized in Singapore.
The scales, packed in 230 bags in a shipping container along with 177kg (390lb) of elephant ivory, were discovered by customs officials on Wednesday.
According to officials, the scales had come from 17,000 pangolins and are worth an estimated £30m.
“The shipment was declared to contain frozen beef and was on the way from Nigeria to Vietnam,” Singapore’s National Parks Board said.
Paul Thomson, from the Pangolin Specialist Group, told The New York Times that the seizure “underscores the fact that pangolins are facing a crisis” – adding: “If we don’t stop the illegal wildlife trade, pangolins face the risk of going extinct.”
Pangolins, also known as scaly anteaters, are the most frequently illegally trafficked animal in the world and are critically endangered.
Their meat is considered a delicacy, while their scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat aliments from cancer to arthritis.
Trafficking of all pangolin species is forbidden under International laws, but about 100,000 are poached from the wild each year.
A survey by the WildAid conservation group found that about 70% of people in China believe pangolin scales, often taken in powdered form or drunk in wine, can cure ailments ranging from rheumatism to skin diseases.
In February, Hong Kong customs uncovered a massive endangered species smuggling operation from Africa, seizing millions of dollars worth of pangolin scales and ivory tusks.
Singapore, which has said it is committed to the global effort to curb the illegal wildlife trade, is believed to be one of its main transit points.