Nearly 13 tonnes of pangolin scales worth S$52 million seized in Singapore

Nearly 13 tonnes of pangolin scales worth S$52 million seized in Singapore

An illegal shipment carrying nearly 13 tonnes of pangolin scales, worth S$52.3 million, was intercepted and seized by Singapore authorities on Wednesday (Apr 3). Vanessa Lim reports. 

SINGAPORE: An illegal shipment carrying nearly 13 tonnes of pangolin scales, worth S$52.3 million, was intercepted and seized by Singapore authorities on Wednesday (Apr 3).

It was the largest seizure of pangolin scales globally in five years, said the Singapore Customs and National Parks Board (NParks). Around 17,000 pangolins were killed to make up the shipment.

The shipment was also carrying 177kg of cut up and carved elephant ivory, worth US$88,500 (S$120,000), said Singapore Customs and NParks in a news release on Thursday.

"That's heartbreaking from the conservation point of view because pangolin scales are just made of keratin - the same material as your hair - so scientifically there is no basis for its purported cure for illnesses," said Dr Adrian Loo, group director for wildlife management at NParks. 

Seized elephant ivory (2)
The seized elephant ivory is estimated to be worth US$88,500 (S$120,000). (Photo: Fann Sim)

NParks ivory seized in Singapore
Bags of ivory pieces that have been processed. (Photo: National Parks Board)

NParks 13 tonnes of pangolin scales seized
Scales from the four species of pangolins. (Photo: National Parks Board)

The haul, which was en route from Nigeria to Vietnam, was discovered in a 40-footer container, packed with frozen beef, at the Pasir Panjang Export Inspection Station. It was declared to contain only frozen beef. 

The seizure was based on information received by Singapore Customs. 

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READ: Vietnam seizes eight tonnes of ivory, pangolin scales

The scales come from four pangolin species that are native to Africa, namely the White-Bellied Tree Pangolin, Black-Bellied Tree Pangolin, Temminck’s Ground Pangolin and Giant Ground Pangolin. All four species are considered vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Elephant ivory seized
A sample of the pangolin scales seized by authorities on Apr 3. (Photo: Singapore Customs)

NParks 13 tonnes of pangolin scales
Gunny sack of Giant Ground Pangolin's scales. (Photo: National Parks Board)

NParks 13 tonnes of pangolin scales seized in Singapore
Gunny sacks of pangolin scales hidden among packs of frozen meat. (Photo: National Parks Board)

Both pangolins and elephants are protected species and international trade in elephant ivory and pangolins are not allowed. They are poached and traded for ornamental and bogus medicinal uses. 

This is the third time Singapore has intercepted the illegal trade of pangolin scales. The last two cases were in 2015 and 2016. It is also the ninth time that a shipment of elephant ivory has been seized. 

Under the Endangered Species (Import & Export) Act, the maximum penalty for illegal import, export and re-export of wildlife is a fine of up to S$500,000 and two years’ imprisonment. 

The same penalties apply to transit or transhipment of illegal wildlife species, including their parts and derivatives. 

The scales and ivory pieces will be destroyed following the seizure. Investigations are ongoing, said NParks.


Source: CNA/cy

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