BANGKOK, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Thai authorities on Thursday displayed to journalists nearly 3 tonnes of scales from pangolins, the world’s most poached animal, seized in anti-smuggling operations since December.
The scales, worth more than $800,000, were shipped from Africa and confiscated by police, customs and wildlife officials at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Thai customs chief Kulit Sombatsiri told reporters that an estimated 6,000 pangolins were killed to produce almost 3 tonnes of scales, which are used in traditional medicines in Asia.
A ban on global trade of pangolins took effect in January after tougher international protection was agreed last September for the eight species of the mammal, which curls up in a ball when threatened by predators.
Like other illicit wildlife commodity pipelines, such as elephant ivory and rhino horn, Africa is the main source of pangolin supply, while the demand comes from Asia.
The nocturnal animals, also called scaly anteaters because of their diet, are increasingly being targeted for their meat and scales, the World Wildlife Fund says on its website, with their status ranging from vulnerable to critically endangered.
Pangolins are in high demand in countries like China and Vietnam, it added, with their meat considered a delicacy and their scales used in folk remedies for ailments such as asthma, rheumatism and arthritis.
Seizures represent as little as a tenth of the actual volume of pangolins in illegal wildlife trade, the Fund said. (Reporting by Reuters Television; Editing by Darren Schuettler)