Close to 13 tonnes of pangolins scales along with nearly 180 kg of ivory pieces discovered in a 40-footer container at the Pasir Panjang Export Inspection Station.
In a joint press release on Wednesday (3 April), the National Parks Board (NParks) and Singapore Customs inspected the container on 3 April 2019, which was declared to contain “frozen beef” and was on the way from Nigeria to Vietnam.
Upon inspection, 12.9 tonnes of pangolin scales, packed in 230 bags, worth about US$38.7 million (approximately S$52.3 million) were uncovered.
This is said to be the largest shipment of pangolin scales seized in a single haul globally in recent years.
Paul Thomson, an official with the Pangolin Specialist Group under the International Union for Conservation of Nature said to The New York Times that roughly 36,000 pangolins were killed for the shipment.
Said Mr Thompson, “The news of this record-shattering seizure is deeply alarming and underscores the fact that pangolins are facing a crisis. If we don’t stop the illegal wildlife trade, pangolins face the risk of going extinct.”
According to the authority, the shipment also included 177 kg of cut up and carved elephant ivory estimated to be worth US$88,500 (approximately S$120,000).
The seized scales and ivory pieces will be destroyed. Investigations are ongoing, said NParks.
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. Elephants and pangolins are protected species under CITES.
International trade in elephant ivory and pangolin is prohibited, the authority stressed.
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 $500,000 and/or 2 years’ imprisonment. The same penalties apply to transit or transhipment of illegal wildlife species, including their parts and derivatives.
The Singapore Government adopts a zero-tolerance stance on the use of Singapore as a conduit to smuggle endangered species and their parts and derivatives.
“Our agencies will continue to collaborate and maintain vigilance to tackle the illegal wildlife trade,” they stated.