Vietnam customs have seized 1.4 tons of pangolin scales smuggled from Sierra Leone at a port in the northern city of Hai Phong.
Customs officers estimated that up to 10,000 African pangolins could have been killed for that much of scales. Pangolins are protected under both the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and Vietnamese law.
The officers said they had followed a smuggling ring and inspected a consignment carried by the container ship MedPearl, which docked at Hai Phong Port on July 23.
The pangolin scales were under a layer of dried sardines, they said.
The designated receiver, Cam Giang Import Export and Trading Company in Quang Ninh Province, sent a letter to Hai Phong Port authority refusing to receive the consignment soon after the case was uncovered.
Dried pangolin scales are believed to have medicinal value.
Under current laws, anyone who illegally hunts, kills, breeds, or keeps endangered wild animals in captivity or transports or trades animals' body parts or products made from them could be imprisoned for up to seven years.
They can also be fined up to 500 million (US$23,720).