Singapore seizes pangolin scales, ivory worth over $48m

Haul of 11.9 tonnes of pangolin scales and 8.8 tonnes of elephant ivory is found in container en route to Vietnam.

    Singapore was tipped off by China's customs department [Handout/National Parks Board/AFP]
    Singapore was tipped off by China's customs department [Handout/National Parks Board/AFP]

    Authorities in Singapore have seized 11.9 tonnes of pangolin scales and 8.8 tonnes of elephant ivory from a container being shipped to Vietnam.

    The National Parks Board, Singapore Customs and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority said on Tuesday it was the city-state's third major seizure of pangolin (anteater) scales this year and its largest seizure of elephant ivory to date.

    "The seized pangolin scales and elephant ivory will be destroyed to prevent them from re-entering the market," a statement said.

    The haul came on Sunday from a container en route to Vietnam from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after a tip-off from China's customs department.

    Authorities estimated the tusks from nearly 300 African elephants were worth $12.9m.

    They said the value of the pangolin scales belonging to about 2,000 of the endangered mammals was $35.7m.

    The pangolin is said to be the most widely trafficked mammal in the world. Its scales are made of keratin and are ground up to use in traditional medicines. Its meat is considered a delicacy in Vietnam and China.

    Singapore pangolin scales
    Singapore says it is committed to global efforts to curb the illegal wildlife trade [Handout/National Parks Board/AFP]

    In recent months, there has been a flurry of seizures - including of rhino horns - in Singapore, Hong Kong and Vietnam.

    "Singapore has always been inadvertently implicated in the global ivory trade for two reasons: its global connectivity, as well as the presence of a small domestic market where pre-1990s ivory can be legally sold," said Kim Stengert, chief communications officer for World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Singapore.

    190718103231798

    "The consistency of these large-scale seizures is strong evidence of organised crime behind illegal wildlife trade coming through or into Singapore."

    Singapore has seized a total of 37.5 tonnes of pangolin scales since April, including one raid which was the biggest of its kind worldwide in five years.

    The city-state is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and says it is committed to the global effort to curb the illegal wildlife trade.

    Last week, a United Nations report said organised crime syndicates in Southeast Asia were flourishing in the illegal trafficking of drugs, wildlife, counterfeit goods and people.

    "Governments in Southeast Asia should review their criminal legislation to ensure that law enforcement agencies are fully authorised to follow the financial flows related to wildlife crime and to prosecute money-laundering offences," the report said.

    SOURCE: News agencies