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Record shipment of illegal ivory seized, along with pangolin scales, worth over S$66 million in total

SINGAPORE — Close to 12 tonnes of pangolin scales and a record 8.8 tonnes of ivory were seized by the authorities here, estimated to be worth a total of US$48.6 million (about S$66 million).

Elephant ivory weighing 8.8 tonnes was seized on July 21, 2019 by the Singapore authorities. They were in a shipment en route to Vietnam.

Elephant ivory weighing 8.8 tonnes was seized on July 21, 2019 by the Singapore authorities. They were in a shipment en route to Vietnam.

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SINGAPORE — Close to 12 tonnes of pangolin scales and a record 8.8 tonnes of ivory were seized by the authorities here, estimated to be worth a total of US$48.6 million (about S$66 million).

It is the largest seizure of elephant ivory in Singapore to date and the third major one for pangolin scales since April.

The shipment was seized on Sunday (July 21) at Singapore Customs’ Pasir Panjang export inspection station, during a check on three containers said to contain timber from the Democratic Republic of Congo passing through Singapore on the way to Vietnam.

In a media release on Tuesday, the National Parks Board (NParks), Singapore Customs, and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said that sacks containing pangolin scales and elephant ivory were found in one of the containers.

The pangolin scales, packed in 237 bags, were valued at US$35.7 million. They were assessed to be from 2,000 giant pangolins (Smutsia gigantea) native to Africa.

The elephant ivory, found in 132 bags, was gauged to be worth US$12.9 million. They were estimated to have come from about 300 African elephants (Loxodonta africana).

So far, Singapore has seized a total of 37.5 tonnes of pangolin scales since April, the authorities said.

For ivory, the last haul was 177kg of these cut-up and carved parts seized in April.

The pangolin scales and elephant ivory will be destroyed to prevent them from re-entering the market, the authorities said, adding that they acted on a tip-off from China’s customs.

The pangolin — a nocturnal insectivore with a full armour of scales — is said to be one of the most trafficked mammals in the world, and is a vulnerable species.

Its meat is considered a delicacy in Vietnam and China, but its scales — used in traditional Chinese medicine — are in higher demand, though its benefits have no scientific basis. 

“Elephants and pangolins are protected species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), and international trade in elephant ivory and pangolin is prohibited,” ICA, NParks and Singapore Customs said. 

“Singapore is a signatory to Cites and is committed to international efforts to curb illegal trade in Cites-listed species.” 

Under the Endangered Species (Import & Export) Act, the maximum penalty for illegal import, export and re-export of wildlife is a maximum fine of S$500,000 and up to two years’ jail, or both.

The same penalties apply to the transit or transhipment of species of wildlife listed under Cites, including their parts and derivatives.

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Singapore Singapore Customs wildlife ivory

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