RM5.1 million of pangolin scales seized

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KUALA LUMPUR: A US$1.2 million (RM5.1 million) illegal shipment of scales from the critically endangered pangolin has been uncovered in Malaysia, officials said on Friday, the second such seizure in a week.

Customs officials at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport discovered 16 boxes of the smuggled scales weighing almost 400kg.

Last Friday, customs officers seized almost 300kg of scales from the creatures, which are also known as “scaly anteaters”.

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Both shipments had come from Ghana and was transported by Turkish Airlines.

Pangolins docile mammals with a thick armour are indigenous to parts of Southeast Asia and Africa.

Their meat is considered a delicacy in China and their scales are sometimes used in the production of crystal methamphetamine.

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Soaring demand for the reclusive creature has seen an estimated one million pangolins plucked from Asian and African forests over the past decade, sending their numbers to perilous lows.

Elizabeth John, senior communications officer of the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network (Traffic), hailed the rapid success of the Customs Department in making two such busts within a week.

“But there is also a need for intelligence-led cross-border investigations to nab the big players who are driving the trade,” she told AFP.

Authorities in neighbouring Indonesia on Wednesday seized hundreds of live pangolins and scales in a haul worth US$190,000.

Malaysia last month made its largest haul of such scales, 712kg estimated to be worth more than US$2 million.