Malaysia makes massive seizure of pangolin scales, Latest World News - The New Paper

Malaysia makes massive seizure of pangolin scales

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KUALA LUMPUR : Malaysian authorities seized about six tonnes of pangolin scales and smashed a smuggling syndicate, officials said yesterday, as the country clamps down on rampant wildlife trafficking.

The scales weree worth RM78 million (S$25.7 million).

The pangolin, the world's most heavily trafficked mammal, is believed to have possibly been a vector in the leap of the novel coronavirus from animal to human at a market in China's Wuhan city last year.

Its body parts fetch a high price on the black market as they are commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine, although scientists say they have no therapeutic value.

According to a study published in 2017 by the Conservation Letters journal, between 400,000 and 2.7 million of the animals are hunted each year in central African forests.

The haul was found on Tuesday at a port outside Kuala Lumpur, hidden inside a container along with a shipment of cashew nuts, said customs department chief Paddy Abdul Halim.

"The modus operandi of this syndicate is to hide the pangolin scales underneath sacks filled with cashew nuts in order to fool Customs," the agency said in a statement yesterday.

Officials said they had detained two people for questioning, and the operation had put a smuggling syndicate out of operation.

They could be jailed for up to three years if convicted of breaking wildlife protection laws.

It was not immediately clear if the scales originally came from Malaysia or elsewhere. Malaysia is often used as a transit point for smuggling wildlife across the region.

Traffic, a group that monitors animal trafficking, praised the authorities for "prioritising wildlife even while countries are focused on dealing with the coronavirus pandemic", spokesman Elizabeth John said.