By Camillus Eboh
ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigeria has burned four tonnes of seized pangolin scales, valued at $1.4 million, the first time it has publicly destroyed seized wildlife products to discourage illegal trafficking, officials said.
The pangolin, a shy and critically endangered animal, is one of the world’s most trafficked mammals, and their scales are in high demand in traditional Chinese medicine, despite no reliable scientific evidence that they have any medicinal properties.
Nigeria has become a major transit hub for African pangolin scales and other wildlife products trafficked to Asia.
“The destruction of these seized items is a powerful statement of our resolve to protect our environment, conserve our wildlife, and combat the illegal trade that drives species to the brink of extinction,” Aliyu Jauro, the director-general of the National Environmental Standards Regulation and Enforcement Agency (NESREA) told reporters after Monday’s operation.
Two people were jailed in May for illegal possession of pangolin scales and elephant tusks.
In 2022, Nigeria customs officials seized 1,613 tonnes of pangolin scales and arrested 14 people, NESREA said.
Pangolin populations have declined by up to 80% in some parts of Africa in recent years. Seizures of pangolin scales, mainly sourced in Africa, increased tenfold between 2014 and 2018, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC).
(Reporting by Camillus Eboh; Writing by Elisha Bala-Gbogbo, editing by Deborah Kyvrikosaios)