The Nigerian Customs Service confiscated 7.1 tons of packaged pangolin scales for export. Some pangolin and ivory claws were also seized from three people Nigerian authorities believe are part of a transnational criminal network in West Africa.
The Nigerian Wildlife Justice Commission said in a statement on Wednesday (4/8) that the organization will be responsible for about 50% of the wildlife trade since 2019. This was the ninth largest seizure recorded globally in the past three years.
International authorities have contributed to the recovery of at least 90 tons of pangolin husks since 2019 in countries such as Singapore, China and Vietnam. About 25 tons of these were seized in Nigeria alone.
The pangolin species, potentially the world’s most trafficked mammal, is on the verge of extinction due to the mass trade in scales used in traditional Chinese jewelry and medicine, the Wildlife Conservation Agency said.
Pangolins are being studied by health authorities around the world as a possible source of the current Covid-19 pandemic. Studies show that several samples seized more than a thousand kilometers before Wuhan, where it all may have begun, were genetically infected with a virus very similar to SARS-CoV-2.
In another study, scientists found that the genetic sequences of several strains of coronavirus found in pangolins were between 88.5% and 92.4% similar to the new coronavirus. Scientists and animal advocates say this is all the more reason to ban the illegal trade in these large mammals.