Scales from 17 000 pangolins from Nigeria bound for Vietnam seized in Singapore

The authorities in Singapore seized 12.9 tons of pangolin scales worth more than $52 million from a container at Pasir Panjang Export Inspection Station in the biggest single haul in the world in recent years, The Straits Times reported recently.

The scales originated from Nigeria and were bound for Vietnam. They were found packed in 230 bags among packets of frozen beef, and declared to contain “frozen beef”.

Along with the pangolin scales, 177kg of cut up and carved elephant ivory worth $120,000 were also seized during the inspection.

Singapore Customs and the National Parks Board (NParks), which staged the joint operation that led to the haul, said the scales are likely from 17 000 pangolins, taking into account the weight of the various species.

The four species native to Africa are the Giant Ground Pangolin (smutsia gigantea), the Black Bellied Tree Pangolin (phataginus tetradactyla), the Ground Pangolin (smutsia temminckii) and the White Bellied Tree Pangolin (phataginus tricuspis).

The previous biggest haul on record was in China in 2017, where nearly 12 tonnes of scales were seized. NParks said it intercepted shipping of pangolin scales in Singapore in 2015 and 2016 as well.

No evidence for medicinal benefits

In March 2017 Dr Nguyễn Thị Bay, former head of Ho Chi Minh City Medicine and Pharmacy University’s Traditional Medicine Faculty in Vietnam said that in the past, scales from pangolins were used in Vietnam for medical treatment, but there is no evidence to support it, reported Viet Nam News.

The traditional use of pangolin scales to treat blocked milk ducts in breast feeding women is promoted by a number of websites online, but doctors of traditional medicine say scientific research proves that it is ineffective.

Dr Lê Hùng, chairman of HCM City Traditional Medicine and Acupuncture Hospital, said that advertisements often falsely claimed that pangolin scales can treat cancer and diabetes in addition to improving male energy and vitality.

$500 000 fine and two years in prison

Singapore is a signatory of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).

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

NParks said investigations are ongoing. It added that the scales will be disposed of by incineration after investigations are completed so that they will “not be in the market”.

WATCH: The largest single seizure of pangolin scales in Singapore.

Source: Capricorn Review