Indonesia seizes haul of pangolin meat bound for Vietnam

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Tons of dead pangolins, an endangered scaly animal, were seized by Indonesian customs on Thursday, foiling an effort by smugglers to ship the meat to Vietnam, officials said on Thursday.

Indonesia's customs office found 309 crates each containing between six to 10 adult and baby pangolins, weighing a total of 7.5 tons, at the country's biggest port in Jakarta, said a customs official. It also found 65 kilograms of pangolin scales.

"The most outrageous thing here is they even exterminate the young pangolins, the ones that when curled up are about 20 centimeters long," Rahmat Subagio, the head of the port's customs and excise office, told Reuters.

Pangolins, or scaly anteaters, are meant to be a protected species in Indonesia. The endemic wildlife of the sprawling archipelago of tropical forests, from orangutans to Javan rhinos, is under threat from widespread logging and poaching.

The exporting company had covered up the illegal shipment with frozen smelly fish, but customs received a tip-off and X-rayed the container to discover pangolin shapes.

Local media reported earlier this month that a customs office in northern Sumatra island had also foiled an attempt to illegally smuggle about 1,700 pangolins to Vietnam, where eating the creature is believed to improve health.

A 2010 report by TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network, and conservation group the WWF, said trade in pangolins is well established in Southeast Asia and seized specimens were just a fraction of the actual wildlife trade.

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