China Seized Over 3.5 Tons of Pangolin Scales, Around 7,500 of the Mammals Killed

Dec 29, 2016 11:08 AM EST

Pangolins are tragically known as the world's most hunted mammal, and a recent seizure in China only underlined the constant danger the specie is in.

China seizes its biggest haul on record

According to a report from Phys Org, the state media revealed that Shanghai customs were able to seize roughly 3.1 tonnes - over 3.4 tons - of pangolin scales. It counts as the largest ever smuggling case that involves animal parts. The scales were included in containers of wood products from Nigeria.

Officials estimate that about 7,500 individual pangolins were killed for this volume of scales. Three suspects were arrested in relation to the smuggling case.

The international trade of pangolins are actually illegal, but it remains a problem, partly due to the inconsistent enforcement. In the black market, the scales can cost around 5,000 yuan or $700 per kilogram. The recently seized haul, therefore, could amount to up to $2 million.

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These scales, made up of keratin, are traditionally believed in a number of Asian countries as a cure for a variety of illnesses including cancer. Pangolin meat is also considered a delicacy.

More about the pangolins in danger

All eight different species of pangolin are in grave danger of extinction, International Union for Conservation of Nature pangolin specialist Jonathan Bailee revealed in a report from NPR. They're mostly found around parts of Asia and Africa.

"The demand for the pangolins is actually in China and Vietnam," he added. "And the Asian pangolin, particularly the Chinese pangolin, has basically been wiped out. ... We're seeing that the body is actually being eaten as some sort of celebration when a business deal is done."

The animal that's being hunted for its parts is only as big as a racoon, distinct for its armor of thorny scales. It's the only mammal in the world with scales, so it's often mistaken as a reptile, according to a report from Popsci.

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