Pangolin Trade Much Worse than Expected, Seized Notebooks Show

Reporting from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia last week, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) shared some disturbing news with the world. Endangered pangolins (aka scaly anteaters) are being massacred at a rate much higher than previously expected.

Stunning figures in traffickers’ logbooks indicate massive illegal capture and trade in endangered pangolins or scaly anteaters, finds a new TRAFFIC study.

A Preliminary Assessment of Pangolin Trade in Sabah analyses logbooks seized following a raid by Sabah Wildlife Department in 2009 on a syndicate’s pangolin trafficking premises in Kota Kinabalu, the capital city of the Malaysian State of Sabah in north Borneo.

The logbooks reveal that 22 200 pangolins were killed and 834.4 kg of pangolin scales were supplied to the syndicate between May 2007 and January 2009.

The Sabah Wildlife Department granted TRAFFIC access to the logbooks, which detail the volume, weight, source and prices of pangolins purchased by the syndicate during the 14 month period.

“TRAFFIC is grateful to the Wildlife Department for allowing us access to this information,” said Noorainie Awang Anak, Senior Programme Officer with TRAFFIC Southeast Asia and an author of the report.

“The detailed record-taking by this criminal syndicate has given us a unique insight into the volumes of endangered pangolins being illegally traded in the region.”

However, as Awang points out, the numbers could be even higher: no logbooks were recovered for the period August 2007 to February 2008 or for June 2008. Whether this is because the books were missing or because there was no smuggling during the period is not known.

For more on efforts to catch and prosecute pangolin smugglers, including a seizure of 23 tons of frozen pangolins one week in 2008, and more information on the endangered Sunda Pandolin, visit Seized notebooks give unique insight into scale of illicit pangolin trade.

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Photo Credit: Leigh (Rhymes with Twee) via flickr (CC license)

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