Huge 9.5 tonne bust of pangolin scales must sharpen Nigeria’s appetite to tackle wildlife crime

Customs officers in Nigeria have seized a staggering 9.5-tonne shipment of poached pangolin scales.

The haul – found in an abandoned warehouse in Lagos in 147 sacks –very roughly equates to 9,500 dead pangolins, the world’s only scaled mammal.

In recent decades, pangolins have swiftly become the world’s most trafficked mammal. Pangolins are poached and illegally traded in Africa and Asia to supply commercial markets both locally and internationally with scales and meat.

Scales are used in traditional medicines and for jewellery, particularly in east Asia; the meat is consumed across Africa and Asia as both a subsistence and delicacy food.

Chris Hamley, our Senior Pangolin Campaigner, said: “Nigeria has become one of the primary exit points for the trafficking of pangolin scales and elephant ivory between Africa and Asia, largely undetected by Nigerian authorities.

“In addition, elephant ivory is openly available for sale in Lagos and ivory processing is also taking place at a commercial scale.

“In recent years, very little progress has been made in Nigeria to address its critical role in wildlife and timber trafficking, so this enforcement action is doubly welcome.

A Pangolin in its natural environment

“We welcome the initiative of the Nigeria Customs Service in inflicting such a major loss on a criminal network trafficking pangolins. All eight pangolin species are at risk of extinction.

“The industrial volume of dead pangolins represented by this 9.5 tonne haul of scales should spur the Nigerian Government to go beyond seizures and proactively investigate the criminal networks involved.

“With successful prosecutions of wildlife traffickers, Nigeria would become a more high-risk environment in which to undertake this illicit activity.”

Details of the huge 19 January seizure were revealed by Nigeria Customs Service Comptroller-General, retired Col. Hameed Ali, at a media briefing in Lagos on Tuesday.