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Wildlife Trade Specialists

© Royal Malaysian Customs

© Royal Malaysian Customs

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Published 1st April 2020

  Chinese 

Malaysian Customs make six-tonne African pangolin scale seizure

Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, 1st April 2020—Malaysian Customs in Port Klang have foiled a major smuggling attempt seizing over six tonnes of African pangolin scales—the largest such seizure to date in Malaysia’s busiest port. Enforcement officers from the Central Zone Unit II found the 6,160 kg of scales in a 20-foot-container, hidden underneath a layer of sacks of cashew nuts. The consignment had been declared as cashew nuts—a common false declaration for shipments carrying African ivory and pangolin scales.


The importer and the customs agent involved in the shipment are being investigated, the agency said in a press statement released today. No arrests have been made so far.

Port Klang has seen seizures of both ivory and pangolin scales from African countries in the past decade. The last seizure of pangolin scales at this port—a shipment which topped two tonnes—took place at West Port in Port Klang in September 2017. 

That year also saw a record number of African pangolin scale seizures at both Malaysian airports and seaports, amounting to almost 18 tonnes. It included Malaysia’s largest to date, which was eight tonnes of African pangolin scales in Sepanggar Port, in Sabah. Close to three tonnes of the scales seized in 2017 have since been incinerated

"With the the country’s resources focused on dealing with the public health coronavirus pandemic, those behind this shipment probably thought they'd get one over the Royal Malaysian Customs, but were themselves caught out,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, Director for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia. 

“This hopefully shows traffickers that enforcement agencies aren’t letting their guard down during trying times. Stopping illegal wildlife trade should be part of continued, long term efforts to curb the threat of zoonotic diseases,” she said. 

This seizure also points to traffickers diversifying routes as enforcement is stepped up across the region, and perhaps a response to the almost 40 tonnes of African pangolin scales that were seized in Singapore last year.

Apart from Singapore, large shipments of pangolin scales smuggled from Africa have also recently been seized in Thailand and Viet Nam. Including this six-tonne seizure by Malaysia, these four countries alone have intercepted over 106 tonnes of African pangolin scales since 2017. A significant proportion of these was reportedly headed for Viet Nam.  

“This reinforces the need for enforcement agencies to stay vigilant and continue disrupting criminal activities and to keep working across international borders to investigate pangolin scale smuggling from Africa to Asia,” said Krishnasamy.