Nigeria Customs intercepts huge haul of pangolin scales, ivory
The Nigeria Customs Service has arrested three suspected high-level traffickers with 7.1 tonnes of pangolin scales and 846 kg of ivory seized.
This was disclosed in a statement issued by Isabel Leal of the Wildlife Justice Commission, and confirmed to this newspaper by Joseph Attah, Nigeria’s Customs Service Public Relations Officer.
“Acting on intelligence provided by the Wildlife Justice Commission, Nigeria Customs Service officers searched a residential address in Lagos on Wednesday 28 July, arresting three suspects and seizing 196 sacks containing 7,137 kg of pangolin scales, 4.6 kg of pangolin claws and 846.34 kg of ivory,” the statement partly reads.
It said all wildlife products recovered are destined for export, and that additional suspects are being sought in respect to the seizure, while some are believed to have already fled Nigeria.
The statement noted that the arrested suspects are part of a well-known transnational criminal network operating in West Africa who are linked to approximately 50 per cent of all major pangolin scale seizures over the past three years.
“These arrests have severely disrupted this network.This is the ninth largest seizure of pangolin scales in the last three years (2019-2021),” it said.
Pangolin is a solitary anteater resembling an artichoke and is the world’s most trafficked mammal. The animal is prized for its scales which are majorly used for traditional medicine in China.
The all-round scaly-quiet animal is at the center of a sophisticated, multi-million-dollar supply chain across Africa and Asia, run by networks of criminal syndicates.
However, the large-scale and sustained trafficking of pangolin scales, sourced for jewelry and as a component of traditional Chinese medicine, is driving the species to the brink of extinction.
Steve Carmody, Wildlife Justice Commission Director of Programs, was quoted to have said; “The Wildlife Justice Commission wishes to congratulate Nigeria Customs for their quick response resulting in this outstanding outcome against a well-established transnational organized crime network,”
The official stated that the truly horrific reality of this seizure is that even at seven tonnes, there were still eight other larger seizures in the last three years, and this network was responsible for at least half of them.
“We look forward to the arrest of the other wanted subjects and seeing proceeds of crime provisions applied to seize the ill-gotten gains of this network,” he said.