BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thai customs have confiscated 136 live pangolins, the world’s most poached animal, and 450 kg (992 lb) of pangolin scales worth 2.5 million baht ($75,000), officials said on Thursday.
Authorities managed to intercept the smuggled pangolins which entered Thailand from Malaysia late on Wednesday after a tip-off.
Director-general of Thai Customs Department, Kulit Sombatsiri, said the market value and demand of the animals and their body parts remained high, which drove smuggling.
“The smugglers keep doing this because the payment is so high and there are lots of demand for the consumption of these wild animals,” Kulit said.
Found only in Asia and Africa, the largely solitary and nocturnal pangolin, or “scaly anteater”, is in high demand in countries like China and Vietnam, with their meat considered a delicacy and their scales used in folk remedies for ailments such as asthma, rheumatism and arthritis.
The 136 pangolins would be taken to a conservation area under the care of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.
Thailand is a major transit point for the trade in endangered species to other Asian countries and Pangolins and their scales are usually smuggled to Vietnam and China.
Since the beginning of the year, Thai authorities have seized more than 2.9 tonnes of smuggled pangolins and their scales, according to the Thai Customs Department.
A ban on global trade of pangolins took effect in January after tougher international protection was agreed last September for the eight species of the mammal, which curls up in a ball when threatened by predators.
All eight of the world’s species of pangolin, which range from 30 to 100 cm in length, are threatened with extinction.
Reporting by Prapan Chankaew and Juarawee Kittisilpa; Writing by Panu Wongcha-um