CHIANGRAI – The Thai navy on Tuesday said it had intercepted wildlife traffickers attempting to smuggle 104 endangered pangolins to China on the Mekong River.
The creatures, prized for their skin, scales and meat and hunted extensively in Southeast Asia, are believed to have originated in Malaysia or southern Thailand.
“The pangolins were on their way to Laos and then finally China,” said Lieutenant Commander Garan Minwong of the Thai navy’s Mekong river task force in the country’s northern border area.
He said two suspects were arrested during the raid late Monday before they were able to load the live pangolins onto a boat.
Thailand, seen as a hub for traffickers of all endangered species, came under pressure over the rampant smuggling of ivory through its territory during Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) talks in Bangkok this month.
The pangolin is an adorable and gentle creature, shy and nocturnal. It is also one of the most tortured and abused animals in the world. The little known pangolin is killed wholesale for local medications and even as an ingredient in hard liquor.
Captured pangolins are frequently drowned by people who don’t care that, as mammals, their central nervous systems register every iota of fear and pain.
Because they offer so little resistance, these harmless anteaters have been hunted to the brink of extinction in their native Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand. Customs officials recently intercepted a load of 110 illegally poached pangolins from Thailand. And this shipment is believed to be part of a larger criminal smuggling operation.