Record seizure of 'world's most trafficked animal'
Published : Tuesday, 12 February, 2019 at 9:31 PM Count : 562
More than 27 tonnes of pangolins and their scales - believed to be worth at least £1.6m - have been seized from traffickers by Malaysian authorities on Borneo.
Police discovered two major factories on the island's eastern state of Sabah.
They found containers holding 1,800 boxes of frozen pangolins, a further 572 frozen pangolins in separate freezers, 61 live pangolins and 361kg of the animal's scales.
Two bear paws and the carcasses of four flying foxes were also recovered in what was the biggest such bust in the southeast Asian country.
The pangolin, a scaly mammal, is said to be the most trafficked animal on Earth.
Demand for the animal and their products has dramatically increased over the last few years, as authorities struggle to control a rampant smuggling trade.
The creature's scales contain keratin, which is used in traditional Chinese medicine, and its meat is considered a delicacy in China and other Asian countries.
Wildlife group Traffic said the frozen pangolin bodies found in the raid would likely have been sold for meat consumption.
Officials raided the Sabah facilities last week after a tip-off alerted them to the large operation.
A 35-year-old man, who is believed to have been a factory manager, has been detained.
Sabah police chief Omar Mammah said initial investigations showed the factory had operated for seven years and traffickers had bought the pangolins from illegal hunters for distribution locally.
He added that Sabah had "been implicated in over 40 tons of pangolin smuggling since August 2017, including 13 tons of African pangolin scales".
The latest seizures echo the discovery of logbooks kept by another pangolin trafficking ring in 2009, which revealed 22,200 pangolins had been killed and 834.4kg of scales sourced and supplied over 13 months.
There was another massive seizure of pangolin scales at a Sabah port and in Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur in 2017, suggesting that Sabah has emerged as a hub for trafficking the critically endangered creatures.
In December last year, Sky News obtained footage of a gang member prodding and poking a pangolin for amusement in South Africa.
Four of the traffickers involved were arrested and their contraband was handed over to an animal hospital.
According to international organisation WWF, an estimated 116,990 to 233,980 pangolins were killed between 2011 and 2013 based on reported seizures.
But experts believe seizures represent as little as 10% of the actual number of pangolins being illegally trafficked.