Nigeria seized eight tons of pangolin scales and around sixty bags filled with ivory or bones of protected animals bound for Vietnam, a customs official said on Wednesday.
The cargo, seized in the port of Lagos on January 21, was concealed in a furniture container, Mohammed Abba-Kura, the comptroller general of customs, told AFP.
“The container was opened and we saw logs of wood hiding the cargo,” he said.
“After a complete search, 162 bags of pangolin scales were discovered, as well as 57 bags filled with elephant tusks, lion bones and others … for a total weight of 8.8 tons” and a estimated value of more than 2 million euros, said Mr. Abba-Kura.
Nigeria, a country of 200 million people plagued by corruption, has become a hub of animal trafficking for West and Central Africa.
Although the ivory trade has been officially banned in Vietnam since 1992, the country is a prime market for elephant tusks, in addition to being a transit point to neighboring China.
The illegal ivory trade is the third most profitable form of trafficking after drugs and weapons. Ivory can reach up to 7,000 euros per kilo.
Pangolin scales are sought after in Southeast Asia for their purported medicinal properties against acne, cancer, or impotence.
The pangolins, suspected of having been the intermediate host which would have allowed the transmission of the virus from the bat to the human species, were withdrawn this year from the official Chinese pharmacopoeia.
In early January, China sentenced 17 traffickers who had introduced astronomical quantities of pangolin scales (23 tonnes, valued at more than 22 million euros) from Nigeria between 2018 and 2019.
One million pangolins have been hunted in the forests of Africa and Asia over the past ten years, as the appetite for the quadruped soars in China or Vietnam.