Wildlife Crime

Seizures of Congo-originated Pangolin scales at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok.

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Officials from Department of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation; Customs Department; and Royal Thai Police worked together in the seizures of Congo-originated Pangolin scales at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, Thailand. The 3 separate Pangolin scales cases, collectively weighing at 2.9 tons, are predicted to have a net worth of around 130 million Baht (3.7 million US dollars) in market price of their destination at Lao PDR (at 45,000 Baht or around 1,300 US dollars per kilograms).

The first two seizures occurred on December 4, 2016 when 24 white containers and 10 yellow containers housing the scales were acquired from the first and second seizures, respectively. The former weighing at around 1,200 kilograms while the latter weighed around 500 kilograms. The third seizure occurred on December 23, 2016, when a Lao PDR-bounded cargo of 24 white containers (1,200 kilograms) was found. The seized articles were sequestered in Suvarnabhumi Airport’s warehouses on the day of the discovery.

From joint investigation by Thai officials and Geneva‘s CITES Secretariat office in Switzerland, all three seizures contained specimens originated from Congo (the country of departure) and were headed towards Lao DPR (the country of destination) by using Thailand as the transit country. Usages of false documents to deceive officials were found. The follow-up investigations were resumed on February 2, 2017 after receiving confirmation of the documents’ false authenticity.

Criminal charges against the violators contain: charges of “Customs Trafficking” in accordance to article 27 of the Customs Act, and of “transportation of carcasses of wildlife under the protection (CITES Appendixes) without authorization” in accordance to article 23 of the Wild Animals Reservation and Protection Act, B.E. 2535 (1992) (WARPA).

The seizures were made under the enforcement operation (January 30 –February 19, 2017) named “Thunderbird”. The operation involves the international cooperation of 5 agencies: INTERPOL, World Customs Organization, CITES, UNODC, and World Bank, all forming the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCW). The operation has participants from 55 countries all over the world. The successes of this cooperation will be reported as one of the agendas on the World Wildlife Day, March 3, 2017.

Pangolins are endangered mammals species that are preyed on the most by trafficking circles, with an average of 1 pangolin being hunted every 5 minutes. Pangolins are quickly becoming scarce and in danger of extinction, thus it was appealed to the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties at Johannesburg, South Africa (held on September 24 - October 05, 2016) to be revised to include the Pangolin and its sub-species into Appendix 1 of the list alongside elephants, tigers, and rhinos.