Why Nigeria Burned 4 Tons of Pangolin Scales

Country did so as a deterrent to traffickers
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 18, 2023 3:00 AM CDT
Why Nigeria Burned $1.4M Worth of Pangolin Scales
Stock photo of a pangolin.   (Getty Images / Uniquesafarieye)

In a move intended to deter wildlife traffickers, Nigeria has burned more than 4 tons of pangolin scales. "These seized items represent the past we leave behind, but the destruction signifies the future we are determined to build for our planet," the country's environment minister said before the scales, valued at $1.4 million in total, were burned. It was the first time the country publicly destroyed confiscated wildlife products in an anti-trafficking move, Reuters reports. Seized leopard, python, and crocodile skins were also burned, the BBC reports.

The pangolin, whose scales are desirable for use in traditional Chinese medicine, is one of the most-trafficked mammals in the world. And Nigeria is a major transit hub for those scales as well as other wildlife products being illegally trafficked to Asia. Last year, customs officials in the country seized more than 1,600 tons of scales and arrested 14 people. Recent years have seen a decline of up to 80% in certain pangolin populations in Africa. "The destruction of these seized items is a powerful statement of our resolve to protect our environment, conserve our wildlife, and combat the illegal trade that drives species to the brink of extinction," the environment minister continued. (More pangolin stories.)

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