Over Three Tons of Pangolin Scales Seized in Vietnam

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Published May 6, 2018 9:38 PM by The Maritime Executive

The customs office at Saigon Port seized 3.3 tons of pangolin scales illegally imported from Africa on May 3, the second such seizure within a week.

The container was declared by Tan Vinh Thinh Trade to contain dried cashew nuts and was in transit to Cambodia from Nigeria.

On April 27, nearly 3.8 tons of pangolin scales was seized in Cat Lai Port. This time the scales were hidden in bags in the middle of two containers surrounded by timber blocks. 

In February this year, over 13 tons, or about 4,000, descaled and disemboweled pangolins were discovered in a container at Taiwan's Kaohsiung’s Pier 66. Taiwan was likely only the transshipment point because of the large number of pangolins found, and it was likely the cargo was intended for China or Vietnam.

An average of 20 tons of pangolins and their parts have been trafficked internationally each year with smugglers using 27 new global trade routes annually, according research released last year by TRAFFIC and IUCN. The report, The Global trafficking of pangolins: a comprehensive summary of seizures and trafficking routes from 2010–2015, was released in the wake of a record pangolin seizure, when China announced the seizure of 11.9 tons of scales from a ship in Shenzen. 

The analysis of cross-border pangolin seizures has shown that at least 120 tons of whole pangolins, parts and scales were confiscated by law enforcement agencies from 2010 to 2015. It also shows that 159 unique international trade routes were used by traffickers during the six-year study period. 

The study, by TRAFFIC and the University of Adelaide, reinforces the highly mobile nature of smuggling networks, with traffickers quickly shifting from commonly used routes after a short period and creating many new routes each year. The global nature of the trade is demonstrated, as 67 countries were implicated. 

Known as the world’s most trafficked mammal, all eight (four Asian and four African) species of pangolins are prohibited from international trade under CITES.