CNN – Authorities in Singapore have seized one of the largest ever shipments of pangolin scales en route to Vietnam, worth an estimated $38.7 million.
In a statement, customs officials said they inspected a 40-foot container passing through Singapore from Nigeria and labeled as “frozen beef.” Inside was over 14 tons of pangolin scales, packed in 230 bags.
A scale-covered, cat-sized nocturnal mammal that survives on ants and termites, pangolin are among the most trafficked animals in the world.
In China and Vietnam, they are eaten as a delicacy and used in traditional medicine, with their keratin rich scales believed to have a host of positive benefits — including aiding breastfeeding and curing asthma or cancer — none of which is supported by science.
This demand has put multiple pangolin species on the endangered list, with the Chinese Pangolin listed by the International Union for Conservation as “critically endangered,” one step above being extinct in the wild.
All eight pangolin species are protected under national and international laws, but smuggling pangolin scales and meat remains highly lucrative and efforts to crack down on the trade have had limited success.
In India, which has a domestic pangolin species, the scales from a single pangolin can provide a “life-changing sum of money” for people living in some of the country’s poorest communities. Read more.
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