1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Singapore seizes 26 tons of pangolin scales

April 10, 2019

Singapore has made the largest seizure of pangolin scales in its history. Endangered pangolins are the world's most trafficked mammal.

Pangolin with young in Bali Zoo
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/F. Lisnawati

Singapore has seized around 26 tons of pangolin scales belonging to around 38,000 of the endangered species over five days, authorities said Wednesday.

In the latest seizure, customs officials on Monday found 12.7 tons of pangolin scales in 474 bags in a container marked as "cassia seed." The haul comes after authorities on April 3 discovered 12.9 tons of pangolin scales in another container disguised as frozen meat.

Read more: Risky business: On the trail of poachers in Zimbabwe

Both shipments were en route from Nigeria to Vietnam and had a combined value of around $77 million (€68 million), making it the biggest pangolin scale seizure in Singapore's history. It was unclear if the two shipments were related.

Pangolins, also known as scaly anteaters, are the world's most heavily trafficked mammal, with more than a million taken from the wild in the past decade, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Experts believe the amount seized represents only 10% of those killed. There are four species in Africa and four in Asia, all of which are protected and endangered.  

Pangolin scales are made of keratin, the same material in human hair and fingernails. The scales account for 20 percent of the mammal's weight.  In China and Vietnam, the scales are used in traditional medicine and their meat is considered a delicacy.

The plight of pangolins

cw/ng (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.