For the second time this week, Singapore has seized another shipment of pangolin scales.
The National Parks Board, said in a statement that 12.7 tons of pangolin scales in 474 bags were found in a 40-foot container travelling from Nigeria to Vietnam. The container was declared to contain ‘Cassia Seeds’.
Instead of cassia seeds, the authorities found about S$51.6 million worth of scales from this endangered animal. According to the statement, the scales that were seized came from two species of pangolins and add up to about 21,000 animals.
Combined with the seizure only five days prior of 12.9 tons of pangolin scales worth S$52.3 million, that’s an estimated 38,000 the endangered mammals which were killed for their scales – in Singapore’s two seizures totaling to over S$100 million.
In their statement, NParks also noted that two pangolin scales seizures have been made in the past in 2015 and 2016 amounting to 440kg.
The statement said that NParks, along with Singapore Customs and Immigration & Checkpoints Authority have in place a risk assessment framework to target shipments with illegal wildlife trade.
Pangolin scales are in high demand in Asia for use in traditional medicine while the meat is considered a delicacies in some Asian countries, including China.
Naturally, wildlife groups have voiced their concern that the two seizures indicated a rise in pangolin poaching.
Neil D’Cruze, the global wildlife adviser at the World Animal Protection said that the World Health Organisation recently endorsed traditional medicine and the market is growing, outside of China and Vietnam. He described this move as alarming for certain species of wildlife as it poses a real threat to conservation and animal welfare.
Paul Thomson, an official at the Pangolin Specialist Group, while it appears that pangolin poaching has increased, actual numbers are difficult to ascertain.
He told the Associated Press, “The illegal trade in pangolin parts has been going on for decades. However, pangolins have typically been overlooked in terms of concerted conservation attention and action.”
He added, “This is changing thanks to growing awareness of pangolins. And this awareness has partly been driven by the high volumes of trafficking seen today.”
Beyond Singapore, nearby ports have also made significant seizures of pangolin products this year. In February, Malaysian authorities seized 30 tons of pangolin and pangolin products including live and frozen pangolin. Hong Kong has also seized about 8.3 tons of scales earlier that month. Again, the shipment was bound for Vietnam originating from Nigeria.