Pangolin, business as usual

3 Apr 2020

Seizure on 31 March 2020 of 6.16 tons of pangolin scales with an estimated value of 17.9 million US$ or 2,900 US$/kg. The final destination could only be China. Wildlife smuggling always goes to the country with the highest demand and the highest bidder (cf. Robin des Bois’ “ Atlas of the Business of Endangered Species “, published by Arthaud in October 2019, in French only).


This is the largest scale seizure in Malaysia since the beginning of the year. The container was officially transporting cashew nuts. The voyage of a container ship from West Africa, e.g. Nigeria, to Malaysia takes about 2 months. So this cashew nut/pangolin shipment was organized between African traffickers and Chinese dealers in early 2020 after the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic in China and within the emergence of the global pandemic.

This cashew nut nexus had already been identified:
– in May 2019, in Viet Nam, with a seizure of 5.264 tons of scales distributed in 2 20-foot sea containers (151 bags were filled with scales and 63 with cashew nuts. The 2 containers had been shipped from Nigeria;
– in May 2018, in Viet Nam, with a seizure of 87 bags containing 3.3 tons of scales among bags of cashew nuts in transit to Cambodia;
– in September 2014, at Ho Chi Minh City airport in Viet Nam, with a seizure of 40 kg of raw ivory in a cashew nut package;
– in 2012, in Manila, Philippines, with a seizure of 6 rhino horns from a shipping container carrying cashew nuts from Mozambique.

These events have been reported in “On the Trail”, Robin des Bois’ information and analysis bulletin on animal poaching and smuggling, available online.



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