Nigerian Customs Service and National Drug Law Enforcement Agency were working in collaboration with British Border Force officers when they intercepted a suspect shipping container bound for Vietnam, according to the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI) Foundation.
Officials who examined the container discovered 10.18 tonnes of tusks, skins, bones and scales, all from endangered species. These included 2,772 pieces of elephant ivory weighing 4,752 kgs, 5,329 kgs of pangolin scales, and 108 kgs of lion skulls, teeth and claws.
Officials involved in the seizure told the EPI Foundation they believe the ivory came from 709 elephants, while the scales came from 10,658 pangolins. They estimated the bones came from 11 lions. The seizure also included the remains of one rhinoceros.
The total financial value of the seizure is estimated at $16,830,000, but this does not take into account the impact on local communities and ecosystems.
“The huge numbers of items being trafficked is highly disturbing, and reflect the organised, industrial-scale of these destructive wildlife crimes,” said John Scanlon, CEO of the EPI Foundation.
“They show once again that Nigeria is a major hub for the export of illegal wildlife products from Africa. We congratulate the Nigerian authorities on making this seizure, and look forward to the successful prosecution of the criminals involved,” he added.
According to the EPI, Nigeria’s entire surviving elephant population is estimated at only 300, living in a few small and vulnerable herds.
It added that, in recent years, organised criminal gangs have sourced ivory in nearby countries such as Cameroon, Gabon, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo, which is then exported from Nigeria to East and Southeast Asia.