Poaching for Elephant Tusks, Rhino Horns, and Pangolin Scales

The iNews newspaper of 19 July 2022 reports on page 34 that elephant tusks and pangolin scales had been seized in Malaysia

Malaysian authorities said yesterday they seized a container of African elephant tusks, pangolin scales and other animal skulls and bones estimated to be worth 80 million ringgit (£15m).

The Customs Department said in a statement it discovered the contraband hidden behind sawn timber following checks on 10 July on a ship coming from Africa. This included 6,000kg of elephant tusks, 100kg of pangolin scales, 25kg of rhino horns and 300kg of animal skulls, bones and horns, it said.

Investigations are ongoing on the importer and shipping agent.

Ivory tusks, rhino horns and pangolin scales are believed by some to have medicinal properties and are in high demand in Asia.

The World Wildlife Fund said the illegal wildlife trade threatens the survival of many species and has led to a 60 per cent decline in population sizes of vertebrate species.

I looked up how much an average elephant tusk weighs, and its 23kg. So 46kg per elephant – which means that someone had killed 130 elephants to get that haul.

And around sixteen rhinos at 1.5 to 2.5kg per horn.

There is a huge variation in the number of scales on pangolins, varying with species, and an average of 0.47 kg per animal is very approximate, but let’s say 200 animals killed to make the weight of scales found.

Is that a lot? The United Nations page on pangolin scales shows that 69.3 tons of pangolin scales were seized in 2019. That’s 147,447 pangolins.

The title of this piece is ‘Poaching for Elephant Tusks, Rhino Horns, and Pangolin Scales’, and the key word is ‘for’. The animal is ignored. An elephant is a tusk with a body attached, an inconvenient, large and dangerous body. A rhino similarly. A pangolin is easy – scales with an easy to manage body attached.