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6 Sep 07
Malaysia Seizes 168 Smuggled Pangolins - Report
KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian police have seized 168 pangolins smuggled in from neighbouring Indonesia and headed for Thailand, state news agency Bernama reported on Wednesday.
Found only in Asia and Africa, the largely solitary and nocturnal pangolin, or "scaly anteater", is sought after in Asia for its meat, which is considered a delicacy in some communities, and for its skin, which is made into handbags and shoes.
Police detained a 32-year-old Malaysian for questioning after finding the animals when they stopped his van near the town of Padang Besar on the border with Thailand, Bernama said.
One of the animals gave birth soon afterwards, it added.
The mammals, weighing 800 kg (1,764 lb) in total, were estimated to be worth 640,000 ringgit (US$182,500), based on a market price of 800 ringgit per kg for their meat, police official Ku Yaacob Ku Hamad told the agency.
The pangolins, perhaps best known for their tactic of curling up into a ball to escape threats, were probably headed for Thailand on their way to cooking-pots in Laos and China, a wildlife trade monitoring official in the Thai capital said.
"Basically it's not so much that they consume them here in Thailand, but rather it is a transit point for pangolins and then they go on to Laos and China," said Azrina Abdullah, who works for the TRAFFIC Southeast Asia network in Bangkok.
Authorities are investigating the case under Malaysia's Wildlife Act, which provides for a jail term of up to 18 years and a fine of as much as 19,000 ringgit for possession of the animals without a permit.
Under CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, all international trade in pangolins has been banned since 2000, because the thriving unregulated market is a severe threat to the animals.
CITES includes almost 170 countries, including China and all 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
(US$1=3.506 Malaysian Ringgit)
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