Law enforcement officials in Benin are celebrating after 500kg of trafficked pangolin scales were seized in an operation supported by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the largest amount taken in one seizure in the country.
Four men were arrested and 23 bags of scales were confiscated at Cadjehoun Airpot in Benin’s capital Cotonou, in an operation which also exposed a previously unidentified smuggling route for wildlife traffickers.
“This is a very significant seizure involving one of the world’s most heavily trafficked animals, so we would like to send our congratulations to Benin’s authorities and [Cadjehoun’s] Cellule Aeroportuaire Anti-Trafics team in particular for this breakthrough,” says Chris Ransom, ZSL’s North Africa programme manager.
“The fact our local partners also appear to have uncovered a previously unrecognised smuggling route out of West Africa during this operation gives double cause for celebration.”
Pangolins are the world’s most trafficked animals, and it is thought that approximately 1,500 were killed to generate the 500kg of scales seized.
In the wild, pangolins roll in a tight ball to protect themselves against attacks from predators, but poachers, who on average kill one pangolin every five minutes, are able to simply pick them up and carry them away.
“We congratulate our colleagues and partners in Benin for this significant seizure,” says Dirck Byler, US Fish and Wildlife Service Africa programmes chief, which supports the ZSL project.
“This is an impressive result for ZSL’s training and mentoring of in-country law enforcement teams.”
You can find out more about pangolins in our Discover Wildlife feature below:
Photo © Nigel Dennis/Getty