Where did that 8,000kg of pangolin scales come from?

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is keen to find out the origin of the 8,000kg of pangolin scales worth RM100mil that was seized by the state Customs and Excise Department at its Sepanggar container port here on July 29.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Datuk Augustine Tuuga said his team wants to take DNA samples to establish whether the pangolin scales were from Sabah or somewhere else.

"We won't have any idea (of the origin of the pangolin scales) unless there is a DNA analysis," he said on Saturday.

"We also believe they may not be necessarily from this region, and could be from Africa as it was with those seized at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in May," he added.

Tuuga was referring to the seizure of 700kg of pangolin scales as well as ivory tusks earlier this year, all originating from Africa.

He said his department was also prepared to take action under the state's conservation laws for smuggling, noting that trading in pangolins was banned under state as well as international laws.

"(Customs) will take action under their law but we will also take action if they hand over the case to us after they have completed their investigations," he added.

On Friday, Sabah Customs and Excise Department director Datuk Janathan Kandok said they had arrested a 43-year-old local and found the pangolin scales stored in 266 gunny bags in two containers waiting to be shipped to China.

The suspect was the owner of the company shipping the goods.

Janathan said they were uncertain if the scales were from local pangolins but did not rule out that they could have come from neighbouring countries, brought into Sabah illegally.

He said that they estimated that the scales came from some 16,000 pangolins, which are classified as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Pangolin scales are used for medicinal purposes and as food, and there is high demand for their unproven aphrodisiac value.

They are valued at US$3,000 (about RM13,000) per kg in the black market.

Sabah Customs is probing the case under Section 135 (1) (a) of the Customs Act 1967 for exporting banned goods.

The seizure was the biggest haul involving the protected animal so far in Sabah, after the seizure of 1,068 frozen pangolins weighing some five tonnes in Sandakan on Dec 7, 2011.

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