Wildlife Watch

Crime Blotter: Pangolin Scales, Tiger Skins, and More

A weekly roundup of wildlife crimes.

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A pangolin sits in a box prison before authorities release it into the wild. The scaly anteater is the most trafficked mammal.


Every Sunday, Wildlife Watch notes some of the previous week’s wildlife crime busts and convictions around the world.

TUSK AND SCALES SEIZURE: Singaporean authorities seized more than 1,000 pounds of elephant tusks and 700 pounds of pangolin scales en route from Nigeria to Laos, reported the International Business Times. It’s one of the largest confiscations in more than a decade.

RHINO HORN DEALING: An art dealer from San Francisco will spend one year in prison for selling black rhino horns to an undercover agent from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which enforces federal wildlife laws, the U.S. Department of Justice announced. Law enforcement arrested the man last March as part of “Operation Crash,” a nation-wide crackdown on the illegal trafficking of rhino horns and elephant ivory.

TIGER SKIN TRADING: Authorities in Indonesia arrested a man accused of trading tiger skins, says the Wildlife Conservation Society. The trader allegedly was peddling his items—which also included parts from sea turtles, crocodiles, bears, and rhinos—to customers in Java, Bali, and Sumatra.

PANGOLIN SMUGGLING: Police in Hong Kong arrested eight sailors in connection with $1.5 million dollars’ worth of pangolin meat onboard a boat bound for mainland China, according to the South China Morning Post. Earlier in the week, police seized pangolin scales worth $5.3 million during an anti-smuggling operation in Hong Kong’s Sai Kung.

PARTRIDGE POACHING: Law enforcement in Pakistan’s Cholistan Game Reserve arrested five people for allegedly poaching partridges, reported The EXPRESS Tribune. The arrestees include a secretary of the regional transport authority and the officer in charge of the Liaquatpur Wildlife Department.

IVORY SMUGGLING: French customs busted two Vietnamese at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport for allegedly smuggling 95 kilograms of elephants tusks and ivory products from Ethiopia, Thanhnien News reported. French customs say it’s the largest quantity of ivory they’ve ever caught air passengers smuggling.

WILDLIFE TRAFFICKING: Authorities arrested four people accused of attempting to illegally traffic 118 primate skulls and 214 kilograms (471 pounds) of pangolin scales out of Cameroon, says Cihan, a Turkish news agency. They were arrested close to the entrance of Yaounde-Nsimalen International Airport.

ILLEGAL FISHING: An Indonesian government surveillance ship has detained a Malaysian fishing vessel for allegedly poaching fish in the Malacca Strait, according to Antaranews.com, an Indonesian publication. The crew is accused of fishing without proper licensing and using illegal fishing equipment that can harm fish.

Fact of the Week: Pangolins, which are scaly anteaters, are believed to be the world’s most trafficked mammal. In China and Vietnam, their scales are considered a luxury item and are used in traditional medicine.

This story was produced by National Geographic’s Special Investigations Unit, which focuses on wildlife crime and is made possible by grants from the BAND Foundation and the Woodtiger Fund. Read more stories from the SIU on Wildlife Watch. Send tips, feedback and story ideas to ngwildlife@ngs.org.

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