Malaysia seizes record haul of pangolin scales

Pangolins are considered the most trafficked animal in the world and its scales are highly prized in some countries for their unproven medicinal properties.

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

According to World Wildlife Fund estimates, pangolins are the most trafficked animal in the world.

Malaysian customs officers seized more than 700 kilogrammes of pangolin scales, the country's largest haul of the scales considered by some to have medicinal properties, officials said Monday.

The 712 kg (1,570 pound) haul worth $2.12 million (9,184,800 ringgit) was made last week in two separate seizures.

On May 2, eight gunny sacks of the scales weighing 408 kg were found at a Kuala Lumpur airport warehouse.

They are believed to have arrived on a flight from Accra, Ghana, which transited in Dubai.

Two days later, 10 more sacks weighing 304 kg were found and seized. These were supposedly on a flight from Kinshasa, DR Congo, to Nairobi, Kenya, transiting in Dubai before reaching Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysian custom officials said they seized more than 700 kilograms of pangolin scales on May 8, 2017.

Malaysian officials say they are investigating.

Pangolins are indigenous to the jungles of Indonesia, parts of Malaysia and areas of southern Thailand, and their meat is considered a delicacy in China.

They are classified as a protected species under the UN's Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, and international trade in any Asian pangolin species is banned under the convention. According to World Wildlife Fund estimates, pangolins are the most trafficked animal in the world.

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.

Wildlife officials have said pangolins face a serious threat from poachers and smugglers in Southeast Asia with inadequate punishment and lack of information encouraging the burgeoning trade.