HONG KONG - A huge two-tonne haul of scales from the endangered pangolin anteater have been seized by Hong Kong Customs in a bust worth more than US$1 million (S$1.39 million), authorities said Friday.
The scales of the protected animal, also known as the "scaly anteater", are in demand for traditional Chinese medicine, especially on the mainland, where they are used to boost virility and treat allergies.
Officials discovered the HK$10 million (S$1.79 million) stash on Tuesday in a shipping container from Nigeria at Hong Kong's cargo port.
"Upon examination, customs officers found the pangolin scales in 44 nylon bags of goods in the container," a government statement published Friday said.
Pangolin scales are prized as an ingredient in Chinese medicine but activists say their health properties are a myth.
The rare anteater's skin is also used in fashion accessories in Asia and its meat is considered a delicacy in China and Vietnam.
In June last year, Hong Kong made its largest seizure of pangolin scales in half a decade after discovering more than three tonnes, worth US$2 million, from Kenya.
Trade in pangolins, which live in Asia and Africa, is banned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.