Singapore makes record-breaking ivory bust, seizes pangolin scales

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Singapore seized its biggest haul of smuggled elephant ivory and a third illegal shipment of pangolin scales in three months all coming from Africa and destined for Vietnam, authorities said.

In one of the three containers which were said to contain timber according to the bill of lading, 8.8 tonnes of elephant ivory estimated to be worth 12.9 million USA dollars were unveiled.

The inspectors also found 11.9 tonnes of pangolin scales which were estimated to be worth about 35.7 million US dollars.

The haul came on Sunday from a container en route to Vietnam from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after a tip-off from China's customs department. Singapore authorities estimated that the scales come from 2,000 pangolins.

Authorities estimated the tusks from almost 300 African elephants were worth $12.9m.

There were also 11.9 tonnes (13.1 U.S. tons) of pangolin scales among the illicit cargo, the third such shipment to be intercepted in Singapore this year.

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The shipment also contained 11.9 tons of pangolin scales from an estimated 2,000 of the critically endangered mammals, the National Parks Board said in a statement on Tuesday.

Paul Thomson, an official with the Pangolin Specialist Group under the International Union for Conservation of Nature said to The New York Times in April that roughly 36,000 pangolins were killed for that shipment, which was the largest shipment of pangolin scales seized in recent years - both globally and in Singapore.

"Around 55 African elephants are killed for their ivory a day, their tusks turned into carvings and trinkets", Tanya Steele, chief executive at World Wildlife Federation, said in a statement.

Singapore's bust comes amid a string of endangered animal parts seizures in Asia.

"The seized pangolin scales and elephant ivory will be destroyed to prevent them from re-entering the market", a statement said. Their scales have popular uses in Chinese medicine and according to a 1938 study, have been used to calm hysterical children and cure women possessed by devils and ogres.

Elephant ivory is coveted as it can be made into items such as jewellery and ornaments.

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