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China seizes thousands of dead pangolins from smugglers

Ten tons of frozen pangolin carcasses and pangolin scales were seized from a fishing vessel after it was stopped for inspection by Chinese customs offcers at Zhuhai’s Gaolan Island, the wildlife trade monitoring network, TRAFFIC, said today.


Like previous major pangolin smuggling incidents, the descaled pangolins were frozen before transportation.


International trade in Asian pangolin species is banned under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). China is a signatory of CITES.

Two species of pangolin–the Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) and the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla)–are classified as Endangered by IUCN. Four other species are Threatened or Near Threatened.

“The suspect fishing vessel was sighted by a Guangdong Jiangmen Customs patrol boat in the Chuandao sea area late in the evening of 5th June and boarded in the early hours of the following morning when 2,090 frozen pangolins each weighing between 1-10 kg and 92 cases of pangolin scales were found.

“The crew were arrested and included five Chinese and a Malaysian national, who claimed they had been hired to sail the vessel from Xiangzhou Port, Zhuhai, to South-East Asia to pick up the illicit cargo,” TRAFFIC said in a news release.

The Malaysian crew member was said to have received instructions by satellite phone on where to rendezvous at sea to pick up the contraband, TRAFFIC added. The smugglers were intercepted before they could transfer the cargo to another vessel off Gaolan Island.

“The use of satellite phones and trans-shipment of cargo at sea are indicative of the increasingly sophisticated methods being used by the organized criminal gangs involved in wildlife crime.”

“The use of satellite phones and trans-shipment of cargo at sea are indicative of the increasingly sophisticated methods being used by the organized criminal gangs involved in wildlife crime,” said James Compton, TRAFFIC’s Asia Pacific co-ordinator.

The Chinese authorities have shared intelligence on the seizures with enforcement agencies operating in the region, including INTERPOL, World Customs Organization (WCO) and ASEAN-Wildlife Enforcement Network, plus CITES officials and are seeking co-operation with Malaysia’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment on a joint investigation.

“Guangdong Customs are to be congratulated on this important action against wildlife smugglers operating between South-East Asia and China,” said Professor Xu Hongfa, Director of TRAFFIC’s China Programme.

“TRAFFIC stands ready to support international co-operation between enforcement agencies that will ensure those who organize and mastermind such wildlife crimes, as well as those who carry them out, are made to face the consequences of their actions,” added Compton.

A China Customs official quoted by the State news agency, Xinhua, noted that between 2007 and the end of June 2010 a total of 292 cases involving the smuggling of endangered species had been investigated in China. In total, 38,599 animal parts had been seized, weighing a total of 26.63 tonnes plus more than 55 tonnes of 2,753 rare plant varieties.

  • TRAFFIC reported a year ago that rising demand for pangolins, mostly from mainland China, compounded by lax laws was wiping out pangolins from their native habitats in Southeast Asia. Read: Asian Pangolins Being Consumed to Extinction.




Undercover photos above of pangolin soup preparation released by TRAFFIC in 2009.


Watch this National Geographic about pangolins, rare and endangered scaly anteaters that are being driven to extinction by a seemingly insatiable demand for them as ingredients in traditional Chinese medicine and as exotic meat.


Posted by David Braun