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Nigeria seizes scales from 15,000 dead pangolins

  • Authorities at the Nigeria Customs Service have announced the seizure of 7.1 tons of pangolin scales that smugglers were attempting to ship out of the country.
  • According to customs officials, a raid last month in Lagos turned up 196 sacks of pangolin scales representing about 15,000 dead pangolins.
  • According to the Wildlife Justice Commission, the the Netherlands-based NGO which provided intelligence to the customs service, the seizure is the ninth largest of pangolin scales since March 2019, and Nigeria’s third largest during that time span.
  • Nigeria said it had arrested three foreign nationals in association with the bust.

Authorities at the Nigeria Customs Service have announced the seizure of 7.1 tons of pangolin scales that smugglers were attempting to ship out of the country.

According to customs officials, a raid last month in Lagos turned up 196 sacks of pangolin scales and 840 kilograms of elephant ivory. The haul represents about 15,000 dead pangolins and more than 80 dead elephants.

Photos of the seizure. Photo credit: Nigeria Customs Service

The contraband was slated for export to meet international demand for the wildlife products, said Joseph Attah, the public relations officer for Nigeria’s Customs Service.

“The demand is not in Nigeria, the source is not in Nigeria and those involved, most of them are not even Nigerians,” Attah said in a statement. “Nigeria as a nation is only being used as a transit route. To that extent Nigeria is collaborating with international partners to ensure that never again shall we be used as a transit hub.”

Photos of the seizure. Photo credit: Nigeria Customs Service

According to the Wildlife Justice Commission, the the Netherlands-based NGO which provided intelligence to the customs service, the seizure is the ninth largest of pangolin scales since March 2019, and Nigeria’s third largest during that time span.

By some estimates, pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world due to demand for their scales and claws in Traditional Chinese Medicine. All eight species of pangolins found globally — include four species native to Asia and four from Africa — are targeted. All are listed on the IUCN Red List, with statuses ranging from vulnerable to critically endangered.

Nigeria said it had arrested three foreign nationals in association with the bust.

Pangolins in a market in West Africa. This image was provided anonymously to Mongabay.