Ivory and scales worth $1 million seized in Malaysia

Malaysian authorities seized trafficked ivory tusks and pangolin scales worth nearly $1 million over the weekend, airport customs officials says on Wednesday, the latest in a series of seizures in Asia of products made from endangered animals.

It was Sunday customs found 23 elephant tusks and six bags of pangolin scales, reports Reuters . The combined value is close to NOK 8 million.

Several similar seizures have been made at the airport in Kuala Lumpur, and environmentalists have pointed out Malaysia as one of the biggest hubs for trade in illegal animals and products from these. The investigators are now wondering whether airport employees are participating in the smuggling.

– We have no evidence, but believe they exploit our systems and procedures for smuggling activity, says the Deputy Director of the Customs Department, Mohammad Pudzi.

Used in traditional medicine

More than 30,000 elephants are illegally killed worldwide every year due to the high demand for ivory.

Pangolines are also victims of illegal hunting. The shells are used in traditional medicine in many Asian countries. All eight Pangolin species are endangered.

About Pangolins (from Wikipedia)

Pangolin in Borneo. By Piekfrosch at the German language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Pangolins are mammals of the order Pholidota. The one extant family, Manidae, has three genera: Manis, which comprises four species living in Asia; Phataginus, which comprises two species living in Africa; and Smutsia, which comprises two species also living in Africa. These species range in size from 30 to 100 cm (12 to 39 in). A number of extinct pangolin species are also known.

Pangolins have large, protective keratin scales covering their skin, and they are the only known mammals with this feature. They live in hollow trees or burrows, depending on the species. Pangolins are nocturnal, and their diet consists of mainly ants and termites which they capture using their long tongues.

They tend to be solitary animals, meeting only to mate and produce a litter of one to three offspring which are raised for about two years.

Pangolins are threatened by hunting (for their meat and scales) and heavy deforestation of their natural habitats, and are the most trafficked mammals in the world.

Of the eight species of pangolin, four (Phataginus tetradactyla, P. tricuspis, Smutsia gigantea, and S. temminckii) are listed as vulnerable, two (Manis crassicaudata and M. culionensis) are listed as endangered, and two (M. pentadactyla and M. javanica) are listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.

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