Tip-off from China led to massive ivory seizure (Singapore)


DM Chan, Asia Times

Date Published

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A timely intelligence input by China has led to a record seizure of 8.8 tons of ivory and 11.9 tons of pangolin scales in Singapore, customs officials from both countries said.

The ivory packed in 132 bags estimated to be worth US$12.9 million belongs to more than 300 African elephants, CGTN reported. 

In the case of pangolin scales, nearly 2,000 of them would have been poached to constitute the seized scales worth US$35.7 million

“This is the largest seizure of elephant ivory in Singapore to date. Previously, Singapore had seized 177kg of cut up and carved elephant ivory in April 2019,” a joint statement released by National Parks Board, Singapore Customs and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority said. The last major seizure of cut and carved ivory weighing 177kg was made in April 2019.

In this particular case, China’s General Administration of Customs had shared information that enabled the Singapore agencies to seize the pangolin scales and ivory successfully, the statement added.

The case is the first joint cross-border crackdown by Chinese and Singapore customs through international law enforcement cooperation, which has wiped out the transnational smuggling network, Wang Zhi, director of Nanning Customs told Xinhua.

Massive poaching has made pangolins the most trafficked mammal on the planet. The animal’s scales are used in traditional medicine in most parts of Southeast Asia, CGTN reported.

Concerned over the uncontrolled poaching, the International Union for Conservation of Nature declared all eight pangolin species as threatened by extinction.

The illegal wildlife products were hidden in three containers originating in the Democratic Republic of Congo and were on the way to Vietnam via Singapore. Labeled to be containing timber, officials intercepted the containers on Sunday finding an illegal haul of ivory and pangolin scales packed in 237 bags.

Since the beginning of 2019, Singapore customs has made a series of illegal pangolin scales seizures, large ones weighed 12.7 and 12.9 tons. With another haul intercepted on Sunday, Singapore has seized a total of 37.5 tons of pangolin scales since April 2019, CGTN reported.

In order to avoid the misuse of seized illegal wildlife products, the confiscated haul is likely to be destroyed. “The seized pangolin scales and elephant ivory will be destroyed to prevent them from reentering the market,” Singapore Customs said.