ALOR SETAR, Malaysia - A strong smell coming from a double-storey house in Taman Desa Seraya led to the rescue of 141 live pangolins.
Police had to break down the front door with the help of firemen and discovered the scaly anteaters in sacks and boxes inside.
Kota Setar OCPD Asst Comm Mohd Rozi Jidin said they raided the house at 2pm on Tuesday after being told of suspicious activities inside.
"We rang the doorbell and knocked on the door, but there was no answer. We had to force open the locked door and found the animals," he said.
ACP Mohd Rozi said they also seized a car which was said to belong to the suspected poacher. It had false registration plates and a forged road tax disc.
He added that the endangered animals had been handed over to the state Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) for further action.
The case is being investigated under Section 68 of the Wildlife Conservation Act, which carries a maximum fine of RM100,000 (S$3,234) or up to three years' jail, or both.
Pangolin meat is considered an exotic delicacy, while the scales are used in traditional medicine.
It is said that the live animal can fetch between RM400 and RM600 per kilo.
A neighbour, who declined to be named, said he had noticed a stench coming from the house since Saturday.
He said a man would usually come by at around midnight and leave at about 6am.
"He would be there only for a short time and in the wee hours," the neighbour said.
"We could hear water running and some washing going on inside the house. Some of us tried ringing the doorbell to find out what was going on, but no one would answer."
Another neighbour said she had not seen the suspect but could always hear water flowing out of the house into the drain.
The owner of the house, who wanted to be known only as Gun, was shocked to learn that his property had been used as a transit point for an endangered species.
"I rented out the house to a man from Seremban for two years," Gun said.
"I have not seen him because he is always busy. The monthly rental was usually deposited into my bank account."