BBC: Pangolins: Hong Kong finds 'record' haul of scales in shipping container

3 February, 2019

Extracts below and a comment from me. Full text: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-47088694

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A record eight tonnes of pangolin scales and more than 1,000 elephant tusks have been seized from a shipping container in Hong Kong, officials say.

The container, from Nigeria and said to be carrying frozen beef, was searched after a tip-off.

The illegal cargo has an estimated value of about $8m (£6m). Two arrests were made, officials say.

The scales of the pangolin, an endangered anteater, are said to have medicinal value in parts of Asia...

The scales, which are made from nothing more than keratin, the same material that makes up human fingernails and hair, are sought after for their unproven medicinal properties...

Some 100,000 pangolins are snatched every year from the wild and sent to Vietnam and China.

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Comment (NPW): In a message to HIFA in October 2017, Andrew Peyman (Wildlife Department,Human Society) wrote, "My work in Viet Nam... has focused on trying to dispel the belief that rhinoceros horn can cure a variety of illnesses, especially serious illnesses such as cancer and rheumatism, but also ailments as mundane as hangover. Similarly, the scales of pangolins (a type of scaly, ant-eating mammal) are also consumed for their purported medicinal benefits, and this and countless other species (many reptiles) are "infused" into wine (the entire body of the animal is placed inside a large wine bottle), and the wine is then thought to imbue the consumer with some sort of property of the animal(s) inside".

The belief that rhono horn and pangolin scales have medicinal value is clearly unfounded. Both are made of keratin - the same stuff as fingernails. It is tragic that this false belief is contributing to mass suffering, and that some Vietnamese and Chinese healthcare providers continue to dupe themselves and their patients into believing they have medicinal value.

Best wishes, Neil

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - www.hifa.org ), a global community with more than 19,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: facebook.com/HIFAdotORG neil@hifa.org