The crew of a Chinese vessel that ran into a protected coral reef in the Philippines are in hot water after coast guards found over 10,000 kilograms of pangolin meat. The pangolin, or scaly anteater, is a protected species, an international ban on their trade has been in effect since 2002.
The steel-hulled vessel hit an atoll on April 8 at the Tubbataha National Marine Park, a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site on Palawan island.
Coast guard spokesman Lieutenant Commander Armand Balilo said yesterday that 400 boxes, each containing 25 to 30 kilograms of frozen pangolins, were discovered during a second inspection of the boat on Saturday.
The World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines said the Chinese vessel F/N Min Long Yu could have been carrying up to 2,000 of the toothless, insect-eating animals rolled up in the boxes, with their scales already removed.
As well as facing poaching charges, the Chinese crewman are also accused of attempting to bribe Philippines officials, according to the marine park’s lawyer.
All four Asian pangolin species are protected by international law. Demand for the meat and scales of the animals come from, unsurprisingly, Chinese traditional medicine practitioners, who think the more endangered an animal, the more magical its flesh.