Malaysia seizes African pangolin scales worth $2.1 million


KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian authorities said Monday they have seized pangolin scales worth 9.2 million ringgit ($2.1 million) and believed to have been smuggled from Africa.

Deputy customs director Paddy Abdul Halim says officers made two seizures last week at the Kuala Lumpur airport cargo warehouse based on a tip.

On May 2, officers seized eight bags of pangolin scales weighing 408 kilograms that were flown from Ghana and transited in Dubai before arriving at the Kuala Lumpur airport on May 1. Two days later, they found another 10 bags weighing 304 kilograms that originated from Kinshaha, Congo, flown to Nairobi in Kenya and transited in Dubai before arriving in Malaysia on May 2.

The consignments were declared as general products and dry herbs, with fake final destinations, he said.

No arrests were made. Paddy said the case is being investigated for smuggling of prohibited goods.

Eight species of pangolin, or scaly anteater, live in Asia and Africa and are targeted for their scales and meat. More than 1 million have been poached in the past decade, threatening the creature with extinction, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

In Vietnam and some parts of China, pangolin meat is considered a delicacy, while its scales of keratin, the protein also found in fingernails and rhino horn, are widely used in traditional Chinese medicine. The demand is causing rampant poaching that is decimating the pangolin population.