Authorities in Singapore say they’ve seized what is the largest illegal shipment of pangolin scales in the world in recent years, after discovering almost 13 tons in a container en route from Nigeria to Vietnam.
Customs officials along with the National Parks Board inspected a 40-foot container at the Pasir Panjang Export Inspection Station and discovered the pangolin scales in a shipment marked as frozen beef. Instead, they found USD$38.7 million in pangolin scales along with elephant ivory worth $88,500.
“Singapore is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) and is committed to international effort to curb illegal wildlife trade,” the agencies said in a joint statement. “Elephants and pangolins are protected species under CITES. International trade in elephant ivory and pangolin is prohibited.”
Singapore’s Endangered Species (Import & Export) Act allows for fines up to $500,000 and/or two years in prison for trafficking in illegal wildlife species.
A similar case of pangolin scales shipped as frozen beef to Vietnam was discovered in Hong Kong in February.
Pangolins are the most-trafficked mammals in the world, according to the World Wildlife Fund, and they’re in high demand in Asian countries including China and Vietnam. That’s because their meat is considered a delicacy, and the unique scales are often used in traditional medicine.
Pangolin populations have been devastated by poaching, including at least 80 percent of pangolins in Asia, and illegal trade continues despite a 2016 treaty of more than 180 governments agreeing to protect the endangered species.
Image: African Wildlife Foundation file