August 30, 2009

Nearly 100 Pangolins Saved From Slaughter

In its biggest seizures of pangolins this year, Malaysia's Wildlife and National Parks Department confiscated 98 animals from a house in Alor Setar in the northern state of Kedah.

After about three weeks of surveillance and investigations, the department's Wildlife Crime Unit raided the house early Wednesday morning and found the smuggled pangolins along with 6.5 pounds of pangolin scales..

"We believe the animals were destined to be sold to Asian countries for their meat, as well as their scales to be used as traditional medicine," the department's enforcement chief Saharudin Anan told AFP.

"The man, in his 40s and self-employed, will be charged in court for five different charges of illegal possession of the totally protected species and he faces up to 23 years in jail and (a) fine if convicted," he added.

Pangolins originally come from the jungles of Indonesia, parts of Malaysia and areas of southern Thailand, and their meat is considered a delicacy in China.

The animal is abundantly equipped to protect itself and ward off danger. For example, their bodies are covered with razor-sharp keratin scales, the same material of which human fingernails are made, and they are the only mammal with this protective adaptation.

Also, the part of their brain that deals with problem solving is highly developed, giving them an edge on discovering food in obscure locations and finding ways of escape. They can even burrow underground and make excellent swimmers.

However, with all of their incredible survival skills, it is still classified as a protected species under the UN's Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Wildlife officials have said the greatest danger pangolins face today is from poachers and smugglers in Southeast Asia and a lack of tough laws to put a damper on the increasingly popular trade.

In March, a senior official with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Wildlife Enforcement Network said that the main route for smuggling Pangolins is from Indonesia to Malaysia and then through Thailand to Laos or Vietnam, which border China.


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