Over $8m worth of elephant tusks, pangolin scales smuggled out of Nigeria late January- UN

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…Charges on protection of planet’s wildlife

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As the World’s Wildlife Day was celebrated on Sunday, 3rd of March, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has beamed its searchlight on wildlife trafficking in Nigeria with the aim of combating the trend.

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According to UNODC, late January this year, more than US$8 million worth of elephant tusks and pangolin scales were confiscated by Hong Kong customs from a shipping container coming from Nigeria, making this the biggest seizure of pangolin scales, by value and weight, ever in the city.

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The organisation also revealed that another incident back in October 2018 led Vietnamese authorities to intercept more than eight metric tons of pangolin scales and ivory, also arriving from Nigeria.

UNODC made this known in a statement on Sunday by Mr. Sylvester Atere, Outreach and Communications Officer of the organisation in Abuja.

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It called on all the stakeholders to collaborate together to towards protecting the planet’s wildlife.

“On 3 March, we are celebrating the 2019 World Wildlife Day – a day dedicated by the international community to raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants.

“It is also a day to review our actions as individuals, communities and governments aimed to protect our planet’s wildlife and to collectively find solutions to the challenges we face.

“With a view to assisting countries in this urgent endeavour, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) launched in 2014 its Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime.

“The Programme is designed to support States to more effectively prevent, identify, investigate, prosecute and adjudicate wildlife and forest crime.

“To date, UNODC has provided support to more than 40 Member States, conducted research to better understand trends and patterns of wildlife crime and developed tools, such as a Guide on Drafting Legislation to Combat Wildlife Crime.

“As a member of the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) – a collaborative effort of five intergovernmental organisations –UNODC also supports Member States in assessing the effectiveness of their preventive and criminal justice responses, drawing on ICCWC Toolkit and ICCWC Indicator Framework for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime,” the statement said.

It said over the past twelve months, a total of 25 tons of ivory and pangolin scales were seized in Asia which allegedly originated from Nigeria, while 13 tons of pangolin scales were seized in Nigeria.

“This marks a sharp increase from the almost eight tons of pangolin scales seized by states parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 2016 and 2017,” it added.

Disturbed by the news, the Minister of Environment in Nigeria, Suleiman Hassan Zarma, said: “It was very unsettling when information was received that the Vietnamese Customs made the discovery in concealed
containers declared as ‘consigning knocked wood.’

“More disturbing is the fact that Nigeria was mentioned as the source in spite of our laudable conservation efforts which informed our leading the war against Illegal Wildlife Trade in the West African Region.”

Pangolins are believed to be the world’s most trafficked mammal and are being hunted for various purposes, including for food, traditional medicines, fashion accessories and are considered a delicacy in many parts
of Asia.

While international trade in pangolins was banned in 2017, after the animal received the highest level of protection against illegal trading by CITES, high demand for such products in Asia continue to make it a very profitable illicit business for wildlife traffickers.

According to UNODC’s World Wildlife
Crime Report (2016), whole pangolins in Nigeria can range in price from US$7 to US$15 while their scales alone would sell for as much as US$250 per pangolin in the destination markets.

However, it appears that Nigeria might risk to evolve rapidly into a transit hub for illicit wildlife products, including pangolins, elephant tusks and other protected species, destined for countries in Asia as well as Europe, the Middle East and North and South America if the development is not checkmated.

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