Four Thousand Disemboweled Pangolins Found

file photo

By The Maritime Executive 02-03-2018 06:34:42

Over 13 tons, or about 4,000, descaled and disemboweled pangolins were discovered in a cargo container at Taiwan's Kaohsiung’s Pier 66, last week.

The Taipei Times reports that the original shipping company failed to return a shipping container to its original address, saying that the recipient refused to accept the shipment. Customs then inspected the container and found frozen sardines, a suspected cover for the pangolins found in the rear of the container.

The container was shipped from Malaysia to Kaohsiung on December 27 last year. A local customs officer said officials suspect the group behind the trafficking knew the pangolins would be found and hoped to swap the contents of the container while it was still in the harbor. However, it is believed that the group was unable to find a good opportunity to make the swap and decided to return the container before making another attempt to smuggle in the pangolins. 

Taiwan was likely only the transshipment point because of the large number of pangolins found. The plan was probably to transfer the cargo to another ship intended for other nations, probably China or Vietnam.

An average of 20 tons of pangolins and their parts have been trafficked internationally each year with smugglers using 27 new global trade routes annually, according research released last year by TRAFFIC and IUCN. The report, The Global trafficking of pangolins: a comprehensive summary of seizures and trafficking routes from 2010–2015, was released in the wake of a record pangolin seizure, when China announced the seizure of 11.9 tons of scales from a ship in Shenzen. 

The new analysis of cross-border pangolin seizures has shown that at least 120 tons of whole pangolins, parts and scales were confiscated by law enforcement agencies from 2010 to 2015. It also shows that 159 unique international trade routes were used by traffickers during the six-year study period. By comparison, a previous analysis of CITES trade data found 218 such routes over a 38-year period from 1977–2014.

The study, by TRAFFIC and the University of Adelaide, reinforces the highly mobile nature of smuggling networks, with traffickers quickly shifting from commonly used routes after a short period and creating many new routes each year. The global nature of the trade is demonstrated, as 67 countries were implicated. 

China and the U.S. were the two countries most commonly involved (i.e. having the highest number of incidents regardless of the quantity involved in each incident). China was the main destination of large-quantity shipments of scales and whole pangolins, while the U.S. was the main destination for large-quantity shipments of body parts. The quantities entering the U.S. were, however, not comparable to the massive shipments trafficked through Africa and Asia.

Known as the world’s most trafficked mammal, all eight (four Asian and four African) species of pangolins are prohibited from international trade under CITES. Pangolins are being sold for about $68.41 per kilogram.