Huge hauls of endangered pangolin scales seized

Second major haul of pangolin scales raises extinction fears

Massive pangolin scales seizure shocks wildlife groups

On April 3, officials seized 12.9 tonnes of pangolin scales worth some $38.7 million from a container in Singapore which was also en route to Vietnam from Nigeria. Officials said scales from a total of 38,000 seized scales are related to four pangolin types in Africa.

The container was declared to contain "cassia seeds" but was found to be holding the animal parts estimated to be worth about $51.6 million, in 474 bags, at the Pasir Panjang Scanning Station.

Last week's shipment was also on its way from Nigeria to Vietnam.

Singapore has seized almost 26 tonnes of pangolin scales - the most ever recorded - in two separate operations over the past week, increasing calls for improved protection for the endangered species.

It is said to be the most widely trafficked mammal in the world, with the keratin scales that cover its body touted as a cure in traditional medicines in Asia.

Pangolin meat is considered a delicacy in some countries.

Wildlife groups are concerned pangolin poaching is increasing.

"The World Health Organisation recently endorsed traditional medicine and the industry appears keen to grow this market, outside of China, Vietnam and beyond", said Neil D'Cruze, the global wildlife adviser at the World Animal Protection. He described this move as alarming for certain species of wildlife as it poses a real threat to conservation and animal welfare.

Pangolins are an extremely lucrative catch, he said. In rural communities where they're hunted, poachers can make up to the equivalent of a full year's salary from catching just one pangolin.

Paul Thomson, an official at the Pangolin Specialist Group, while it appears that pangolin poaching has increased, actual numbers are hard to ascertain. The same penalties apply to transit or transhipment of illegal wildlife species, including their parts and derivatives.

He added, "This is changing thanks to growing awareness of pangolins". This included live and frozen pangolins and 361 kilograms (795 pounds) of their scales.

The combined 25.6 tonnes seized in the two hauls this month were about 58 times the combined weight of the first two pangolin scale shipments intercepted in Singapore in 2015 and 2016, which amounted to about 0.44 tonnes, or 440kg.

Under the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act, anyone involved in the illegal import, export and re-export of wildlife can be fined up to $500,000 and jailed up to two years.

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