In what is being called the largest seizure of its kind in a shipment worldwide, 14,000 tons of scales from an estimated 36,000 pangolins were discovered in Singapore last week.

Custom officials stated they inspected a 40-foot container on its way from Singapore to Nigeria. They not only found an estimated 37.8 million dollars worth of pangolin scales but also 180 kilograms (around 400 pounds) of cut-up and carved elephant ivory.

“If we don’t stop the illegal wildlife trade, pangolins face the risk of going extinct,” said Paul Thomson, an official with the Pangolin Specialist Group, an organization belonging to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, in a statement to the New York Times.

The pangolin is considered to be one of the most trafficked animals in the world. Their bodies are boiled to remove their scales. Their meat, falsely believed to contain healing properties, is used in traditional Chinese medicine.

In 2016, 186 countries party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wildlife Fauna and Flora agreed to ban the trade of all eight species of pangolin. At the time, the largest seizure of these animals ever discovered was just five tons.

In 2018, shocking footage from World Animal Protection and Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit went viral, revealing the barbaric nature of the pangolin trade. In the video, a poor animal is smoked out of their hiding place, viciously beaten in the head with a machete, and thrown, possibly still alive, into boiling water to remove the scales.

The trade isn’t showing signs of slowing down, despite additional protections. In February this year, 30 tons of pangolin meat was seized in Malaysia and, in the same month, a nine-ton shipment of pangolin scales and a thousand elephant tusks were intercepted in Hong Kong.

Pangolin trafficking is horrifying and devastating. It’s reported this poor animal will likely go extinct before people on a large scale realize they exist.

We must raise awareness for this magnificent creature of nature, pass stronger protections, and enforce them to the fullest extent of the law if we hope to bring pangolins back from the brink of extinction.

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pangolin in the wild