Police chase leads to rescue of over 100 pangolins

pangolins confiscated from smugglers

110 pangolins were rescued by Thai customs officers after a high-speed car chase.

Earlier today (7th June 2012) a truck tried to drive through a customs post in Thailand. Customs officers at the post in Pranburi gave chase and finally got it to stop. In the back of the truck were 110 pangolins heading for the illegal wildlife trade.

Royal Thai Customs officers were able to make one arrest – the passenger – following the high-speed chase but unfortunately the driver was able to escape on foot.

The passenger who is believed to be part of an international wildlife poaching and smuggling operation was released later after paying a fine of US$75,000. 

The ability of the passenger to pay a substantial fine of $75,000 in just a couple of hours demonstrates the sheer scale of the profits that can be made trading illegally in this endangered species.

Some figures put the amount of pangolins traded on the illegal market running into tens of thousands each year. Figures released in 2010 showed that 22,000 of the creatures were traded in a 18 month period by one wildlife crime syndicate alone..

Many of these pangolins are caught in Malaysia and Thailand before being shipped to China through Vietnam. The scales of this armoured anteater are often ground down for use in traditional medicines and the meat is eaten as a delicacy. Traditional medicine practitioners claim that ground pangolin scales can help nursing mothers and a potion made from the blood can help fertility problems in men.

The pangolin is becoming one of the most traded endangered species in South East Asia and make up the bulk of current seizures. In 2009 over 100 tonnes of pangolin meat was seized world-wide but it’s thought this only represented between 10% and 20% of the total trade. Part of the reason for this is that China have effectively harvested all their own pangolins.

Estimates of pangolin numbers in 2000 put the Chinese population at between 25,000 – 50,000 now numbers are thought to be just 10% of these figures with the pangolin locally extinct is vast areas of China. That’s a loss of 90% in just 12 years.

Pangolins are much more valuable on the black-market alive than dead. The price of pangolins on the illegal market can fetch over US$1,000 a kilogramme. While smugglers try to keep the animals alive until they reach the market many rescued pangolins will be in poor condition and may not survive for long after rescue.

This is just the latest in a number of high profile accidental discoveries of trading in highly endangered species. The fear is that these accidental seizures and discoveries are signalling an increasing amount of trade or a new boldness in the smugglers.

External sites: Freeland Foundation.

Posted in Animal and tagged , , .
Subscribe to our newsletter for a weekly digest of wildlife news from around the world