When Singaporean customs officials opened a shipping container en route to Vietnam from Nigeria on April 3, 2019, they found piles of canvas sacks stuffed full of dusty, dried flakes. Packed along with nearly 180 kilograms (400 pounds) of carved elephant ivory, the flakes turned out to be pangolin scales — 12.9 metric tons of them. It was the largest seizure of pangolin scales ever recorded, gathered by killing as many as 36,000 of the small forest-dwelling mammals. Then, just five days later, they found another container. This time, there were 12.7 metric tons of scales inside, labeled “cassia seeds” and also bound for Vietnam. Like the previous shipment, its origin was Nigeria. Experts say the two seizures provided a window into a trend that’s emerged in recent years. For decades, Africa’s ivory and illegal wildlife trade was clustered in East African countries like Kenya and Tanzania. But now, the locus of smuggling has shifted west, to Nigeria. “Nigeria is well connected with other countries in the region, but also has good transportation networks with Asian markets as well,” said Shruti Suresh, senior wildlife campaigner with the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). “Combine that with a toxic combination of weak law enforcement and corruption, not only in Nigeria, but more broadly in the region, and what we’re stuck with now is that Nigeria has become the world’s largest hub for export of ivory and pangolin scales leaving African shores for Asian markets.” According to a December 2020 report from the EIA,…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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