Customs officials in Jakarta discovered 72 live pangolins among a 1.3 ton shipment of live crabs which was about to be loaded onto a Chinese cargo plane.
The pangolins were found in Stryofoam containers and were headed to a seafood and fruit supplier in Hong Kong. They will be handed over to the Jakarta Natural Resources Conservation Center (BKSDA), according to The Jakarta Post.
Pangolins, known locally as trenggiling, are a protected species in Indonesia. If the pangolin smugglers are caught, they face a maximum of five years in prison and a Rp 100 million (US $10,411) fine.
Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan told the Post that “rampant smuggling of trenggiling has brought the species to the edge of extinction. We closely work with the police, the prosecutor’s office and the customs office at the airport and Tanjung Priok Port to curb the trade.”
The incident at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport comes just two days after AntaraNews.com reported that wildlife authorities incinerated 8.2 tons of dead pangolins and 141 lbs (64kg) of scales confiscated in previous seizures. Another 19.3 tons will be disposed of following the completion of legal proceedings against the traffickers.
In August 2012, a suspect was arrested near Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park with 14 dead pangolins, heroin, and an automatic weapon.
Indonesia’s Forestry Ministry estimates that 12 tons of pangolins are trafficked each year. The main consumer is China, where pangolins, pangolin fetuses and pangolin scales are eaten because of purported health benefits.
The Chinese demand for pangolins has also spread to Africa, as reported in November 2011.