angolins are rare, adorable creatures that are covered with a layer of scales meant to protect against predators. Unfortunately, their protective scales are also coveted by traditional Chinese medicine practitioners, turning the pangolin into the most heavily trafficked mammal on the planet.
Hangzhou Customs announced on Wednesday that it, along with police in the city of Wenzhou, had detained 18 suspects and seized more than 23 metric tons of smuggled pangolin scales in October following a year-long investigation.
Considering that only 400 to 600 grams of scales can be taken from one pangolin, this indicates that around 50,000 pangolins were slaughtered by the group of smugglers in about one year. The bust is said to be the largest in China in recent years.
According to customs officials, the pangolin scales were purchased in Nigeria before being smuggled to Busan in South Korea and then on to Wenzhou via Shanghai, all while wrapped up in bags with layers of ginger slices to try to avoid detection. Authorities found two individuals selling the scales on the black market in Guangxi.
Pangolin scales can be sold for about 800 yuan ($113) per kilogram in China. They are thought to help cure cancer, asthma, and other ailments as part of traditional Chinese medicine, making the animal afavorite target of poachers.
In addition, the pangolin’s meat is also highly prized as a delicacy in China, used atofficial banquets to impress VIP guests. Back in 2017, a Shenzhen woman became known as the “Pangolin Princess” after her taste for the adorable endangered animal got her noticed on Chinese social media and by the police.
Responding to threats to the animal’s survival, the pangolin received a total ban on international trade in all species under the strictest possible Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) protection in 2016. Meanwhile, it is a second-class nationally-protected animal in China.
However, these designations don’t seem to have done much to stave off the scaly creature’s wholesale slaughter.
[Images via NetEase]