11.9 tonnes of pangolin scales and 8.8 tonnes of elephant ivory were seized on Sunday (21 July) when the National Parks Board (NParks) worked with Singapore Customs and the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) to inspect a shipment of three containers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo being transported through Singapore to Vietnam.
According to the authorities, the three containers were said to contain timber according to the bill of lading. Upon inspection, sacks containing pangolin scales and elephant ivory were found in one of the containers.
The 11.9 tonnes of pangolin scales were packed into 237 bags, estimated to be worth about US$35.7 million (approximately S$48.6 million).
According to the authority, Singapore has seized a total of 37.5 tonnes of pangolin scales since April with this most recent haul.
In April this year, a record-breaking shipment of 13 tonnes of pangolins scales along with nearly 180 kg of ivory pieces were discovered in a 40-footer container at the Pasir Panjang Export Inspection Station, worth up to US$38.7 million (approximately S$52.3 million).
Paul Thomson, an official with the Pangolin Specialist Group under the International Union for Conservation of Nature said to The New York Times in April that roughly 36,000 pangolins were killed for that shipment, which was the largest shipment of pangolin scales seized in recent years – both globally and in Singapore.
In this most recent seizure, authorities stated that the scales were assessed to be from the Giant Pangolin (Smutsia gigantea), and the quantity seized was equivalent to close to 2,000 pangolins.
Pangolins are solitary, primarily nocturnal animals that have a full amour of scales. There are eight species of pangolins found on two continents. Four species of pangolins live in Africa. The scales seized on 21 July 2019 were found to have come from the Giant Pangolin (Smutsia gigantea).
The shipment also contained 8.8 tonnes of elephant ivory, packed into 132 bags and estimated to be worth US$12.9 million (approximately S$17.6 million). The ivory is estimated to have come from nearly 300 African Elephants (Loxodonta africana), which is the largest seizure of elephant ivory in Singapore to date.
The authority noted that the seized pangolin scales and elephant ivory will be destroyed to prevent them from reentering the market.
NParks, Singapore Customs and ICA adopt a Whole-of-Government approach, have a robust domestic risk assessment framework, and strong cooperation with international and local partners to combat the illegal trade in ivory and other CITESlisted species.
There is also sharing of information amongst international agencies. In this particular case, the General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China had shared information that enabled the Singapore agencies to successfully seize the pangolin scales and ivory.
Singapore is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and is committed to international efforts to curb illegal trade in CITES-listed species. Elephants and pangolins are protected species under CITES, and international trade in elephant ivory and pangolin is
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 CITES-listed species of wildlife, including their parts and derivatives.