Breaking! Singapore Makes Record-Breaking Seizure That Includes 8.8 Tons Of Elephant Ivory & 11.9 Tons Of Pangolin Scales

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Photos from NParks

Singapore announced that a record seizure of pangolin scales and ivory tusks was made last weekend after authorities uncovered three containers filled with 11.9 tons of pangolin scales and 8.8 tons of elephant ivory. The containers that had been shipped from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) were headed for Vietnam. 

The seizure took place after China Customs officers shared relevant intelligence with the Singapore authorities following the recent arrest of 12 people on suspicion of wildlife trafficking in China.

“We warmly welcome this example of international enforcement cooperation, which is essential if the activities of wildlife traffickers are to be curtailed. Collaborative follow up investigations should provide real insight into the organized crime gang involved,” Steven Broad, Executive Director of TRAFFIC, said in a statement.

Singapore’s National Parks Board (NParks), Customs, and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) inspected the shipment that claimed to contain timber, according to the bill of lading.

As per NParks, the scales were assessed to have come from close to 2,000 giant ground pangolins, while the ivory would have derived from hundreds of African elephants.

This is Singapore’s largest seizure of elephant ivory to date, eclipsing their previous record of 7.12 tones in 2002, which was long considered the largest ivory seizure worldwide since 1989 when detailed record keeping began. The 237 bags of scales found on Sunday brings the total to 37.5 tones of African pangolin scales seized in the island nation this year alone.

TRAFFIC’s data analysis showed key Southeast Asian countries from 2017 to 2019 where shipments of illicit wildlife products exported from DRC were destined or intercepted to Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand, with Singapore recently joining the list.

Vietnam topped the list receiving a total of over 20 tons of trafficked ivory and pangolin scales, including a single seizure of 9.1 tons of African elephant tusks discovered in Da Nang’s Tien Sa port in March 2019 from the Matadi port in the DRC, the largest ivory seizure on record globally.

Such seizures, including the latest in Singapore, point to the persistence of large-scale trafficking in ivory and pangolins from Africa to Southeast Asia. Apart from Sunday’s seizure, Singapore has seized close to 30 tons of pangolin scales and ivory from just four incidents since 2018, all of which originated from Nigeria and were reportedly heading to Vietnam.

“Clearly, Singapore has remained vigilant since it made massive back-to-back pangolin scale seizures in April of this year,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, Director of TRAFFIC’s Southeast Asia program office. “The scale and persistence of trafficking into Southeast Asia is frightening. But seizures like these are an important piece of the puzzle in determining if the illegal trade is being fed by recently poached animals or old stocks.”

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