Three Suspected Wildlife Traffickers Arrested After More Than 7.1 Tons Of Pangolin Scales & 846 kg Of Ivory Were Seized By Nigeria Customs Officials

Photos from Nigeria Customs Service

Nigeria Customs Service has arrested three suspected high-level wildlife traffickers after officers seized 196 sacks containing 7,137 kg of pangolin scales, 4.6 kg of pangolin claws, and 846.34 kg of ivory from a residential location in Lagos, Nigeria, on July 28th. This marks the ninth largest seizure of pangolin scales since 2019.

The Wildlife Justice Commission provided the Nigeria Customs Department with the intelligence that resulted in a search of the property where the large haul of wildlife products was found ready to be exported.

As per a statement by the Wildlife Justice Commission, the arrested individuals are suspected of involvement in a well-known transnational criminal network operating in West Africa that is linked to approximately 50% of all major pangolin scale seizures over the past three years. These arrests have severely disrupted this network.

This operation is a major victory for law enforcement and for the Wildlife Justice Commission, but we must acknowledge that others will rise to take the place of those recently arrested,” noted Steve Carmody, Wildlife Justice Commission Director of Programs. The Wildlife Justice Commission will use the evidence gathered through this arrest to continue our investigations into the trafficking of endangered wildlife and support the efforts of law enforcement agencies fighting wildlife crime. It takes a network to defeat a network.”

Additional suspects are being sought in relation to this seizure, some of whom are believed to have already fled Nigeria.

As previously reported by WAN, large-scale and sustained trafficking of pangolin scales is driving the species to the brink of extinction. Scales are sourced for use in jewelry and as a component of traditional Chinese medicine.

In 2020, Wildlife Justice Commission investigators were offered staggering quantities of pangolin scales, outnumbering the offers of ivory across all of its investigations. This clearly demonstrates the continued availability of pangolin scales and ongoing marketplace demand despite travel restriction due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Wildlife Justice Commission also warned that wildlife traders were stockpiling their illegal “products” in order to resume trade as soon as possible once restrictions eased.

In recent reports, The Wildlife Justice Commission has pointed out that pangolin scales are increasingly substituted for, and trafficked alongside, ivory, a trend the organization identified as early as 2019. As ivory prices fall, traffickers are increasingly turning to pangolin scales. In combined shipments, the proportion of pangolin scales has surpassed the volume of ivory. 

Since it was established in 2015, The Wildlife Justice Commission has facilitated the arrest of 151 wildlife traffickers and the dismantling of 35 criminal networks. The wildlife products seized during this operation represent the largest quantity of pangolin scales and second largest seizure of ivory ever facilitated by the organization.

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