There are a lot of animals around the world that often illegally hunted and then parts of their bodies are preserved and sold on the black market; among those are elephants for their tusks, rhinos for their horns, tigers for their pelts, and pangolins for their scales. All of these parts are considered valuable in different parts of the world because of their uses.
A lot of these parts slip through the cracks of law enforcement, but sometimes law enforcement gets lucky and finds a large batch of goods mid-transit before it gets to its destination, and it gets confiscated.
The latest of confiscations comes from Thailand, in which authorities were successful in confiscating more than 3 tons of pangolin scales that were being smuggled at an airport. The batch is estimated to be worth around $800,000 USD and involved scales from an estimated 6,000 animals, which were killed to collect them.
Image Credit: Piekfrosch/Wikipedia
The report comes just a couple of months after 3 additional tons of pangolin scales were confiscated in Shanghai, China, which experts estimate came from 5,000-7,500 killed animals.
You can see the size of the confiscation in the AP YouTube video below:
According to The Telegraph, the scales confiscated in Thailand originated from Africa, the same source as those confiscated in China just months ago. The continent is home to much of the world’s beautiful and diverse wildlife that are often poached for their valuable body parts, so the source comes with little surprise.
Why are the scales so popular? In many parts of Asia, it is believed that the scales have medicinal properties that can heal a number of ailments.
Although there is next to no scientific evidence to suggest this is actually true, their assumed properties jack the demand and value of the scales up through the roof, and where there is a demand and money to be made, illegal black market supply comes.
Sadly, although the last several months have resulted in the deaths of over 11,000 pangolins for their valued scales, experts believe that seizures only account for one tenth of those that are actually being traded illegally. This would suggest the death tolls for pangolins are actually much higher than the numbers would reveal. Today, the pangolin remains one of the world's highest-poached animals.
There are trade bans in place to protect the pangolin, but the only real way to protect the species is to get protection in the grounds of their habitat and impose risks for being caught in the act of killing them that outweigh the benefits for catching them.