Thai cops seize record three tons of pangolin scales

2017-02-02 12:34

Bangkok - Thai customs police on Thursday unveiled a massive three-tonne cache of seized pangolin scales intended for Asia's lucrative wildlife markets, where feverish demand for the 'scaly anteater' has turned it into the most trafficked mammal on earth.

The shy pangolin's brown scales are made of nothing more than keratin -- the same substance as fingernails -- but are highly prized in Vietnam and China where they are misleadingly touted as bearing medicinal properties.

Soaring demand for the products has seen an estimated one million pangolins plucked from Asian and African forests over the past decade, shunting them onto the list of species at the highest risk of extinction.

On Thursday, Thai police revealed nearly three tonnes of pangolin scales, packed into white bags, that had been seized from two air cargo hauls at Bangkok's main airport.

The contraband was shipped from the Congo, smuggled through Turkey and eventually bound for Laos -- a key transit hub for regional trafficking syndicates.

"This is the biggest lot (of pangolin scales) that we have seized," Police Major General Worapong Thongpaiboon, acting commander of the Natural Resources and Environment Crime Division, told AFP.


Thailand's CITES director said the final destination was almost certainly intended to be China or Vietnam, where the price of pangolin scales runs around $1,700 per kilo.

"After (customers) clean and dry the scales they fry and mix them with traditional medicine that they believe cure cancer and enhance sexual performance," Somkiat Soontonpitakkool told AFP.

There is no peer-reviewed scientific evidence to support any medicinal properties for pangolin scales.

Steve Galster, executive director of the anti-trafficking group Freeland, applauded police's work but stressed that it fit a familiar pattern: the products were confiscated but the criminals behind the trade remain at large.

"With wildlife crime they seize, check the box and move on," he said.

"Wildlife crime is still not high-level for most governments. They're not told from the top level to focus on this, so usually it's good enough just to do a seizure. That's the problem," he added.

WATCH: The pangolin men

Read more on:    thailand  |  conservation

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24


Man scores date with tennis superstar after Twitter bet

It’s a modern day Cinderella story, but one American man took ‘shoot your shot’ seriously in 2017.


You won't want to miss...

Who are the highest paid models of 2017?
10 gorgeous plus-sized models who aren't Ashley Graham
5 top leg exercises for men
10 best dressed men of 2017
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.