Customs seize 2.9 tonnes of pangolin scales

Customs seize 2.9 tonnes of pangolin scales

Customs Department chief Kulit Sombatsiri, in suit, deputy police chief Chalermkiat Srivorakhan, left, and Thanya Netithamkul, director-general of the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, examine part of the 2.9 tonnes of pangolin scales seized while being shipped through Thailand to Laos in December. (Photo by Pawat Laopaisarntaksin)
Customs Department chief Kulit Sombatsiri, in suit, deputy police chief Chalermkiat Srivorakhan, left, and Thanya Netithamkul, director-general of the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, examine part of the 2.9 tonnes of pangolin scales seized while being shipped through Thailand to Laos in December. (Photo by Pawat Laopaisarntaksin)

Customs officials have seized a total of 2.9 tonnes of pangolin scales found in two shipments transiting Suvarnabhumi airport from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Vientiane, Laos, in December last year, department chief Kulit Sombatsiri said.

Mr Kulit said customs officials on Dec 4 examined 34 packages, with a total weight of 1,700 kilogrammes, shipped on Flight TK064 from Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, to Vientiane, Laos, via Turkey and Thailand.

An x-ray scan revealed the packages  contained 1,700kg of the fibrous keratin scales of pangolins.

On Dec 23, another shipment of 24 packages containing 1,200kg of pangolin scales was found, again on Flight TK064.

In total, 2.9 tonnes of pangolin scales were seized in December.

The pangolin is an endangered species registered in Category 1 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), effective from Jan 4, 2017, Mr Kulit said.

Exports and imports of parts of animals in Category 1, which also includes rhino horn and elephant tusks, are prohibited.

Although the pangolin scale seizures were made in December, the shipments were falsely declared and therefore illegal, he said.

Mr Kulit said the scales are believed by Chinese peope to have aphrodisiac properties and sell for 40,000 baht/kg.  At least 6,000 pangolins would have to be killed to gather 2.9 tonnes of scales.

Thanya Netithamkul, director-general of the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, said samples of the seized pangolin scales would be sent for testing to determine their place of origin.

Pol Gen Chalermkiat Srivorakhan, a deputy police chief, said investigators would try to follow the money trail and track down the smugglers and their routes..


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