A global record of 28 tons of scales belonging to approximately 38,000 pangolins in the past week had been seized in Singapore.

The scales were found in shipping containers that have been linked to four species of pangolins that are native to Africa. 14.2 tons were hidden among packets of frozen beef on April 3 and five days later, 14 more tons were discovered in 474 bags inside another container. This alarmed several animal conservation groups and have called for more protection for pangolins, which were used in traditional medicine in China and other Asian countries.

(National Parks Board/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

According to a statement from the national parks and customs officials, the cargo declared the packages were cassia seeds that are used to make tea. Both of those shipments were heading to Vietnam from Nigeria.

“The sheer size of these two latest seizures is unprecedented and will undoubtedly prove a major setback to the traffickers concerned,” Richard Thomas, from Traffic, which is a monitoring network, has told the Associated Press.

Thomas believed that the large amount of scales for shipment meant it was part of a large business, and that their latest discovery of the shipment won’t cut traffickers out of the illegal business.

Over 12 tons of pangolin scales worth around $38.1 million are displayed in an undisclosed site in Singapore on April 9. (Photo from: AP)

Wildlife groups currently call for better protection of the pangolin, which is considered as the most widely trafficked animal in the world.

“The World Health Ogranization recently endorsed traditional medicine and the industry appears keen to grow this maket, outside of China, Vietnam and beyond,” Neil D’Cruze, the global wildlife adviser at the World Animal Protection, said. “This is an alarming move for some wildlife species such as pangolins, as it poses a real conservation and animal welfare threat.”

Poachers can probably make a full year’s salary by just catching one pangolin and many hunters seem to go down this road with that amount of money. The exact figures might be hard to identify, but it seems like poaching of the pangolins has increased.

Some of the 12 tons of pangolin scales seized in Singapore. (Photo from: AP)

“The illegal trade in pangolin parts has been going on for decades. However, pangolins have typically been overlooked in terms of concerted conservation attention and action,” Paul Thomson, an official at the Pangolin Specialist Group, said in a statement.

“This is changing thanks to growing awareness of pangolins. And this awareness has partly been driven by the high volumes of trafficking seen today,” he added.

A pangolin’s scales are made of keratin, which is the same material found in human’s fingernails. They are used as traditional medicine, along with their meat that is considered as a delicacy in China and other Asian countries.  

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