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Huge pangolin seizure in China

14/07/2010 09:35:38

Like previous major pangolin smuggling incidents, the descaled pangolins were frozen before transportation. © EW / TRAFFIC

Pangolins being decimated by illegal trade
July 2010. Customs officers in Guangdong, China, have seized more than 7.8 tonnes of frozen pangolins and 1,800 kg of pangolin scales from a fishing vessel after it was stopped for inspection.

International trade in Asian pangolin species is banned under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). Two of the four species are classified as Endangered by IUCN.

2090 frozen pangolins
The suspect fishing vessel was sighted by a Guangdong Customs patrol and, when boarded, customs officials found 2090 frozen pangolins each weighing between 1-10 kg as well as 92 cases of pangolin scales.

The crew of 5 Chinese and 1 Malaysian national were arrested; they claimed they had been hired to sail the vessel from Xiangzhou Port, Zhuhai, to South-East Asia to pick up the illicit cargo.

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

Organized 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 and CITES, 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.

26 tonnes of animal parts seized since 2007
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.

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