Five days after $52.3m seizure from Nigeria, Singaporean Customs seizes another $51.6m worth of Pangolin scales

FIVE days after world record 12.9 tonnes of pangolin scales, said to have originated from Nigeria, was seized in Singapore, the Singaporean Customs, National Parks Board (NParks) including the Singapore Immigration and Checkpoints Authority have made another seizure of 12.7 tonnes of a similar consignment, worth $51.6 million.        

Ivonne Higuero, Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), has challenged nations to work together to ensure the perpetrators are sanctioned.

“Amazing intelligence work by the Singaporean authorities! The authorities of the countries associated must investigate the criminal networks and any corruption that’s at the root of this illegal trade. TOO MANY animals lost we MUST reduce demand for these illegal products,” says Higuero.

A report by Singapore based news platform revealed that the new seizure (8th April) of pangolin scales, declared as “cassia seeds” in a 40ft (12m) container, which left Nigeria was found Monday heading to Vietnam.

According to the Singaporean authorities, scales of the endangered animal, packed in 474 bags at the Pasir Panjang Scanning Station was valued at $51.6 million.

The seized animal scales were reported to have come from 21 pangolins which include the white-bellied tree pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis) and the giant ground pangolin (Smutsia gigantea).

The two species were also found in the 3rd April seizure worth $52.3 million, described as a record-breaking haul in recent years.

“The scales of the pangolin, believed to be the world’s most highly trafficked mammal, are in high demand in Asia for use in traditional Chinese medicine despite there being no proven medical benefit from their use,” the report says.

Pangolin and Elephant tusk were long declared an endangered species by the CITES.

Incidentally, both Nigeria and Singapore are signatory to the international convention which prohibits illegal trafficking of wildlife. Nigeria signed and ratified CITES in 1974 and enacted the Endangered Species Act in 2016.

In 2013, the maiden International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Pangolin Specialist Group conference held and it was established that populations of all African pangolin species are vulnerable to extinction.

By 2016, CITES fully recognised the rapid decline of pangolin, also known as scaly anteaters due to heavy poaching for commercial purposes, mostly to the Asian markets. Major countries of origination based on the CITES report delivered at the 17th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP 17) are Togo, Cameroun, Uganda and Thailand.

The Federal Government has however repeatedly denied claims that the pangolin scales originated from Nigeria. However, it agreed that the country must have been a transit point for export of the endangered species.

In February, 2, 500 kilogrammes of Pangolin scales and 600 kilogrammes of ivory tusks claimed to have originated from the Apapa port were seized by the Vietnamese government but the Ministry of Environment promised to partner with the Interpol to investigate the matter.

“Under the Endangered Species (Import & Export) Act, the maximum penalty for illegal import, export and re-export of wildlife is a maximum fine of $500,000 and/or two years’ imprisonment.

“The same penalties apply to transit or transhipment of illegal wildlife species, including their parts and derivatives.”

Olugbenga heads the Investigations Desk at The ICIR. Do you have a scoop? Shoot him an email at [email protected]. Twitter Handle: @OluAdanikin

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