Malaysia seizes more than Dh7.3m in pangolin scales in its largest ever haul
KUALA LUMPUR // Malaysia has seized more than US$2 million (Dh7.3m) worth of scales from pangolins, the world’s most poached animal, at Kuala Lumpur airport in the largest haul seen in the country, officials said on Monday.
Customs officials acting on a tip-off discovered 712 kilograms of scales at the airport’s cargo warehouse, where they had been shipped in 18 sacks using false documents, customs department assistant director-general Paddy Abdul Halim said.
The wildlife and national parks department’s deputy director of enforcement, Rozidan Md Yasin, said an estimated 1,400 pangolins had been killed to produce the amount of scales seized.
Malaysia has previously been singled out by wildlife conservationists as a transit point for the illegal trafficking of endangered species to other Asian countries.
Shy and nearsighted, pangolins only venture out from the safety of their burrows or treetop homes at night to scour for insects. When startled, they curl up into a ball – a technique that is futile against the cable snares set by hunters.
All eight of the world’s species of pangolin, which range from 30 to 100 centimetres length, are threatened with extinction.
The scales were shipped from Africa in two separate shipments, Mr Paddy said. The first shipment from the Ghanaian capital of Accra had been sent to Malaysia via Dubai on an Emirates flight.
The second was sent on a Kenya Airways flight from Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, to Nairobi, where it was then transferred to an Emirates flight and shipped to Malaysia via Dubai.
“We are still investigating whether the two shipments are linked,” Mr Paddy said.
No suspects had been detained and it was still unclear whether Malaysia was the final destination for the scales as no recipients could be traced.
Pangolin scales shipped to Malaysia were usually sent on to Vietnam and China, Mr Rozidan said.
The value of pangolin scales vary according to region but can fetch up to 1,500 ringgit (Dh1,270) a kilogram on the Malaysian black market, he added.
Global trade in pangolin scales is banned under a United Nations convention, but they are prized in some Asian countries for use in traditional medicines.
Last month, Thai authorities seized nearly three tonnes of pangolin scales from Africa at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Updated: May 8, 2017 04:00 AM