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July 25, 2024
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Huge Illegal Wildlife Scales Intercepted by Nigeria Customs

The conservation of wildlife is of great importance as it plays a vital role in biodiversity and interactions between different species in nature. These interactions help to maintain a balanced ecosystem which in turn affects the quality and standard of life of humans and Forests, along with the animals that inhabit in it, it also create and preserve a quality environment that serves as educational and recreational purposes.
In Nigeria, several attempts have been made to conserve the diversity of wildlife species that exist in the country in a bid to ensure their survival. The establishment of forest reserves such as Omo forest reserve, game reserves such as yankari game reserve, national parks and other protected areas were created towards the preservation of wildlife and its natural environment.
Also, laws have been enacted to prevent the degradation of the natural habitat of wildlife by uncontrolled logging and to prevent the over-hunting of wildlife for food and other purposes.
There has been reports overtime of illegal killing of animals even within the protected areas by poachers. These indiscriminate harvesting of flora and fauna in both protected and unprotected areas constitute threats to the preservation of wildlife in the country.
This prompted the Wildlife Justice Commission to notify the Nigeria Customs Service of illegal activities of poachers in Lagos.

A raid was carried out on July 28 by the Nigeria Customs Service and three suspected members of a network of pangolin scales exporters, a prohibited animal product were arrested and seizure of 196 sacks containing 7,137 kg of pangolin scales, 4.6 kg of pangolin claws and 846.34 kg of ivory in a house in Lagos.
 
All the wildlife products were destined for export, according to a statement released by the Customs and the Wildlife Justice Commission.
Additional suspects are being sought in respect to this seizure, some of whom are believed to have already fled Nigeria.
This is the ninth largest seizure of pangolin scales in the last three years (2019-2021),
According to the statement, the arrested suspects are part of a well-known transnational criminal network operating in West Africa.
They are linked to approximately 50% of all major pangolin scale seizures over the past three years.
“These arrests have severely disrupted this network”, the statement said.
“The Wildlife Justice Commission wishes to congratulate Nigeria Customs for their quick response resulting in this outstanding outcome against a well-established transnational organised crime network,” said Steve Carmody, Wildlife Justice Commission Director of Programs.
“The truly horrific reality of this seizure is that even at seven tonnes, there were still eight other larger seizures in the last three years, and this network was responsible for at least half of them. We look forward to the arrest of the other wanted subjects and seeing proceeds of crime provisions applied to seize the ill-gotten gains of this network.”
 
Large-scale and sustained trafficking of pangolin scales, sourced for jewellery and as a component of traditional Chinese medicine, is driving the species to the brink of extinction.
During 2020, Wildlife Justice Commission investigators were offered staggering quantities of pangolin scales, outnumbering the offers of ivory across all the organisation’s investigations for the first time.
This fact demonstrates the continued availability of pangolin scales and ongoing marketplace demand, despite COVID-19 travelling restrictions.
The Wildlife Justice Commission had also identified that wildlife traders were stockpiling their products in order to resume trade as soon as restrictions were eased, a concern that has now been justified by seizures of massive amounts of pangolin scales such as this one.
The Wildlife Justice Commission had pointed out in recent reports that pangolin scales are increasingly substituted for, and trafficked alongside, ivory, a trend that the organisation already identified in 2019.
As ivory prices fall, traffickers are increasingly turning to pangolin scales; in combined shipments, the proportion of pangolin scales has surpassed the volume of ivory.
“This operation is a great example of how transnational wildlife crimes should be investigated and the tangible results that public-private partnerships can achieve by working together to disrupt organised crime,” said Carmody.
“This operation is a major victory for law enforcement and for the Wildlife Justice Commission, but we must acknowledge that other actors will rise to take the place of those recently arrested.
“The Wildlife Justice Commission will use the evidence gathered through this arrest to continue our investigations into the trafficking of endangered wildlife and support the efforts of law enforcement agencies fighting wildlife crime. It takes a network to defeat a network.”
 
The wildlife products seized during this operation represent the largest quantity of pangolin scales and second largest seizure of ivory ever facilitated by the organisation.
 
The federal government of Nigeria should not relent in doing everything possible to ensure that the nation’s wildlife is well protected.

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