Chinese customs officers recently announced that 11.9 tons of smuggled pangolin scales had been confiscated, which is the country's largest volume ever intercepted in a single smuggling case. Meanwhile, two suspects, surnamed Li and He, who used fake names to register their packages for import, have been arrested.
Shenzhen customs officers inspect bags of pangolin scales. Photo: CNS
The huge amount of pangolin scales were found on a ship which was registered as empty but was instead found to be loaded with charcoal at Yantian Port in Shenzhen, city of south China's Guangdong Province on July 1.
Li Ping, a Shenzhen customs official, said 239 bags of suspected pangolin scales were hidden in a container. Animal experts believed that 2,000 to 3,000 pangolins had been slaughtered in order to amass that many scales.
The pangolin scales seized in Shenzhen Photo: people.cn
The South China Wildlife Identification Center later confirmed that the scales were from endangered pangolins banned from international trade. At current market price, the seized pangolin scales were worth 200 million RMB (approximately 30 million US dollars), according to officials.
Pangolin scales are thought to help cure ailments as part of traditional Chinese medicine, despite no scientific evidence to support the claim. In addition, its meat is also highly prized by some people as a delicacy. Earlier this year, photos of a "pangolin feast" posted on China's twitter-like Weibo had prompted online outrag
The pangolin is a second-class nationally-protected animal in China. Fines and regulations related to pangolin trafficking have been tightened in recent years. Eating pangolins is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. But the lucrative profits remain too alluring for smugglers who bring pangolins into China or Vietnam from Africa.
Conservationists in China have called for the State Council to list pangolin as a species of the state-level protected animal Class I and ban the medical use of it in a bid to stop the animal from being extinct.