Asian Gangs Mining Africa’s Wildlife


One kilogram of dried pangolin scales can fetch US$500 (B15,000) in Vietnam or China, while one full body can fetch over US$2,000 (B59,000). File photo: Freeland Foundation

BANGKOK - The Freeland Foundation, a national organisation dedicated to stopping illegal

wildlife trade and human slavery, congratulated French customs this week for seizing endangered animal body parts originating in West Africa en-route to Vietnam.

The seizure of 50 kilograms of pangolin scales this week at Charles De Gaulle Airport was the 3rd this month by French Customs, representing the deaths of up to 400 pangolins, which are endangered ant-eaters, prized for their meat and skin as food and medicine in Asian black markets


Freeland Foundation believes the lucrative illegal trade in pangolins is run by criminals based in Southeast Asia, who are also involved in poaching and trafficking of elephants, primates, tigers, leopards, lions, rhinos, and other rare and endangered species.


One kilogram of dried pangolin scales can fetch US$500 (B15,000) in Vietnam or China, while one full body can fetch over US$2,000 (B59,000). The shipment seized by the French was en-route to Vietnam.


Since working with authorities in Asia and Africa, the foundation believes that Asian gangs are starting to run out of supply of pangolins, elephants, tigers, and other wild animals in Asia, so are fast targeting the same or similar species in Africa, including pangolins, which were once abundant across Southeast Asia and China, but are now much harder to find.


In January, the Chinese government led and joined police agencies from Southeast and South Asia, Africa, and the United States to launch “Operation Cobra”, which was supported financially and technically by Freeland.


The operation led to numerous arrests and prosecutions, as well as voluminous seizures of pangolins, ivory, big cats, and rhino horn.


Freeland Director Steven Galster said, “Team work and information sharing across border and public-private sector lines will put real pressure on these these criminal gangs that are destroying our earth and put them out of business before it’s too late.”


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