Singaporean authorities made a record seizure of nearly 13 tonnes of pangolin scales worth some $38.7 million, officials said Thursday, calling it the largest such haul globally in recent years.
Government agents found the shipment bound for Vietnam from Nigeria as they were checking a 40-foot container at a customs station on Wednesday, discovering the haul packed in 230 bags.
"This is the largest shipment of pangolin scales seized in a single haul globally in recent years," a government press release read.
Local media reported that some 17,000 pangolins were killed to fill the bags, which were packed in a shipment declared as containing "frozen beef".
The press release added that another 177 kgs (390 pounds) of cut and carved elephant ivory worth about $88,500 were also found alongside the scales.
Authorities across Southeast Asia have been trying to stop the rampant poaching and smuggling of pangolins, the world's most heavily trafficked mammal.
The animals, also known as scaly anteaters, are highly sought after by traditional medicine traders in countries such as China and Vietnam. Their scales, similar in constitution to fingernails, provide zero scientifically proven medicinal benefit.
Under Singaporean law, those found guilty of the illegal import, export or re-export of wildlife can fined up to S$500,000 ($369,375) and jailed up to two years or both.