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 Local

RM103m pangolin scales bust

12th August, 2017

By ERIC BAGANG and MICHAEL TEH

KOTA KINABALU: Some 16,000 pangolins were killed and their RM103 million scales are now in Sabah Customs’ custody.

In the biggest wildlife seizure in Sabah, the Customs Department foiled an attempt to export the scales to China. Its director, Datuk Dr Janathan Kandok said that the seizure was made during a raid by a team of enforcement officers at the Sepanggar Bay Container Port at 9.20am on July 29.

According to him, the pangolin scales, weighing some 8,000 kg were packed together with sea shells in 226 sacks. “They were stored in two 40-foot shipping containers declared as sea shells and waiting to be exported,” he told a press conference at Wisma Kastam here yesterday.

Dr Janathan said they have also arrested an export company owner – a 43-year-old local man from Kota Kinabalu – for investigation under Section 135(1)(a) of the Customs Act 1967 for exporting prohibited goods.

He said the seizure showed the Sabah Customs is serious and committed to safeguarding the State from being used as a trans-shipment hub for illicit items.

The offence, he said, carries a fine of between 10 and 20 times the value of the goods, or up to three years’ imprisonment or both in the event of conviction.

“We have been monitoring the company’s activities before we conducted the raid,” he said.

Dr Janathan said this was a big case as it involved a massive amount of pangolin scales, estimated to represent some 16,000 pangolins assuming that one creature produces around 2kg of scales.

“Since a large part of the natural habitat of pangolin in Sabah had disappeared over the years due to agricultural and commercial developments, it can only mean that the pangolin scales are not from Sabah but the neighbouring countries,” he explained.

He also acknowledged that the bust, the largest in Sabah’s history, was based on ‘intelligence gathering’ effort of the department.

Dr Janathan believed that the pangolin scales were smuggled into the state through rat trails to be exported. “This is the biggest haul after the seizure of 1,068 frozen pangolins weighing some five tonnes in Sandakan on December 7, 2011,” he reiterated.

According to him, the pangolin trade was unlawful and totally banned under the Appendix 1 of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).

To a question, Kandok said the department will destroy the confiscated pangolin scales.

“We definitely cannot resell it, as it would be deemed as encouraging the killing of pangolin. We will invite the Press to witness the occasion when the time comes, as currently we have yet to decide on how best to destroy the scales,” he said.

It is learnt that pangolin scales are worth US$3,000 per kilogramme in the black market. At one point of time in the past, Sabah was a favourite trans-shipment sub for smuggling of snake skins from neighbouring countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar, to India, also with false declaration.

Pangolins, often called “scaly anteaters,” are covered in tough, overlapping scales. These burrowing mammals eat ants and termites using an extraordinarily long, sticky tongue, and are able to quickly roll themselves up into a tight ball when threatened.

The scales are much sought after in China as they are used to cure a variety of illnesses. They are usually dried and then roasted, ashed, cooked in oil, butter, vinegar, boy’s urine, or roasted with earth or oyster-shells to cure a variety of illnesses.

Amongst these are excessive nervousness and hysterical crying in children, women possessed by devils and ogres, malarial fever and deafness.

   
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