By BORNEOTODAY REPORTERS
KOTA KINABALU: Two container-loads of pangolin scales destined for China but seized by enforcement officials before it could leave, could have been sourced from several places in the region and over a period of time.
Sources told BorneoToday that some of the contraband could have been contributed by Sabah, but said unless DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) testing was done, this could not be ascertained.
The sources also expressed bewilderment by the lukewarm response of the Sabah Wildlife Department to the case, said to be the biggest seizure in the country yet of pangolin scales.
Even Masidi Manjun, Sabah’s Tourism, Culture and Environment minister was said to have been stunned by the magnitude of the seizure – eight tonnes – and queried if the market value of RM103 million was accurate.
On Friday Sabah Customs declared they had seized some 226 gunny sacks in the two containers at the Sepanggar Bay port was filled with pangolin scales carefully hidden among sea shells.
Janathan Kandok, the Sabah Customs Department director said the seizure was made last July 29, following a tip-off that led to an inspection of two containers bound for China.
“The inspection on both the containers led to the discovery of some 226 sacks containing the scales,” he told a news conference.
Authorities also arrested a 43-year-old local man who owned the company that was shipping the scales to China.
“The scales are believed to be worth some US$3,000 (RM12,886) per kilogramme on the black market, he said, adding that each bag contained between 30kg and 50kg of pangolin scales.
The scales are estimated to have been harvested from 16,000 pangolins.
But Kandok said the department is uncertain if the scales were all from local pangolins, adding that they could have been smuggled in from neighbouring countries.
“The amount of pangolins (needed to collected such a tonnage is so high; it’s doubtful it could all be from Sabah,” was quoted as saying.
He also said that they had informed the Wildlife Department about the seizure but none of their officials had made contact after that.
The case is being investigated under Section 135 (1)(a) of the Customs Act 1967, which criminalises the import or export of prohibited goods.
Those convicted can be fined between 10 and 20 times the value of the smuggled goods or jailed a maximum three years, or both.
Kandok noted that the pangolin scales are under an import ban under the International Trade in Endangered Species Act 2008 (Act 686).
This is the biggest seizure of pangolin scales in Sabah, and possibly the country following the seizure of 700kg last May.
There has been a spate of trafficked wildlife products seizures in the country which has led to Malaysia has been singled out by conservationists as a major transit point for the illegal trafficking of endangered species.
Pangolins are the world’s most poached animal as its meat and scales are perceived to have medicinal benefits.