Chinese authorities have come across more than 3.4 tons of poached pangolin scales in a Shanghai port, state media are affirming.
It’s the biggest confiscation China has ever made, Xinhua News Agency reports.
Pangolins are the planet’s most trafficked mammals — their scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine and their meat is a delicacy.
All eight species of pangolin presently face extinction.
“The pangolin is about the size of a raccoon and looks like an artichoke with legs,” NPR’s Jackie Northam wrote last year. “Its head and body are covered with an armor of thorny scales, giving it the appearance of a reptile. When a pangolin is scared, it curls up into a tight ball.”
This autumn, the commercial trade of the animal was “officially banned by the international body responsible for regulating the international trade of endangered species,” reports NPR’s Rebecca Hersher.
Pangolins are currently subject to “the strictest protections available under international law,” she writes.
Rebecca continued: “In a statement following news of the international commercial ban, Elly Pepper, the deputy director of the Natural Resource Defense Council’s wildlife trade initiative, wrote that the trade ban would ‘give the world’s most-trafficked mammal a fighting chance at survival.’ ”
The pangolin scales confiscated in Shanghai were found among wood products delivered from Nigeria, CCTV reports.
The illegally trafficked pangolin parts were detected on Dec. 10, the South China Morning Post reports, and officials apprehended the pangolin scale traffickers who had been in business since 2015.
Around 5,000 to 7,500 pangolins were calculated to have been killed to generate the more than 3 tons of pangolin scales, Xinhua reports.
Black-market prices for the scales place the confiscated scales at a black market value of more than $2 million, Phys.org says.
“The scales are nothing more than keratin, the same substance that makes up fingernails,” the science news service writes. “Yet it has been falsely touted as a cure for multiple ailments, including cancer, among some practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine.”