More than 13 tonnes, or about 4,000, descaled and disemboweled pangolins were discovered in a cargo container at Kaohsiung’s Pier 66, the Kaohsiung Customs Administration Office said on Thursday, adding that it has launched an investigation to track the group behind the illegal imports.
The original shipping company failed to return a shipping container to its original address on Monday, saying that the recipient refused to accept the shipment, the Kaohsiung office said, adding that it opened the container on Tuesday to inspect the contents, as it found the application suspicious.
The front section of the container contained frozen sardines, a suspected cover for the pangolins in the rear of the container, the office said.
Photo copied by Hung Chen-hung, Taipei Times
The container was shipped from Malaysia to Kaohsiung on Dec. 27 last year, but had remained in an unloading bay, as the recipient had not submitted its customs form, the office said.
“We suspect the recipient of the container is a shell company, as the contents of the shipping manifest were evidently false,” the office said, adding that it suspects the group behind the trafficking knew the pangolins would be found and hoped to swap the contents of the container while it was still in the harbor.
“However, it is believed that the group was unable to find a good opportunity to make the swap and decided to return the container before making another attempt to smuggle in the pangolins,” the office said.
Had the contents of the container made it past customs, the pangolins would have been sold to restaurants as a gourmet delicacy, the office said.
“Pangolins are being sold for about NT$2,000 [US$68.41] per kilogram and many groups are trafficking pangolins in the hope of making a profit,” the office said.
According to Taiwanese law and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, pangolins are a protected species and their trade is heavily restricted.
The Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法) also prohibits the import or export of pangolins unless agreed to by the government, and offenders face prison terms of between six months and five years, and fines of between NT$300,000 and NT$1.5 million.
Taiwan is likely only the transshipment point because of the large number of pangolins found. The plan was probably to transfer the cargo to another ship intended for other nations in East Asia, an office section chief surnamed Kao (高) said.
“We believe the intended receiver in Taiwan is a go-between used to facilitate the transshipment as part of a network. The cargo was likely headed for China or Vietnam, where there is a known demand for pangolin meat,” Kao said.
“There is not such a big market for pangolin meat in Taiwan. People know it is a protected species and that it is illegal to eat pangolin, so any restaurant offering the meat is usually immediately reported to the authorities,” he said.
Customs officials are still unpacking the cargo and recording each item as evidence for the investigation, Kaohsiung Customs Office deputy director Lien Yung-chieh (連永杰) said.
The case and materials are to be turned over to the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors’ Office for further investigation.
Additional reporting by Jason Pan
CLOSED FOR DISINFECTION: Two of the three local cases were linked to a cluster infection at a kindergarten, while the other case works at a McDonald’s restaurant The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported three new local COVID-19 infections and 11 imported cases, but no deaths. The local cases are two men and a woman aged between 20 and 80 who reside in Taipei, New Taipei City and Taoyuan, the CECC said in a news release. Two of them are linked to a cluster infection at a kindergarten in New Taipei City’s Banciao District (板橋), said Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥), who is the CECC’s spokesman. He said they are both associated with the mother of a kindergarten student, who was earlier confirmed to have
BIOLOGICAL AGENT: A containment exercise was held in southern Tainan, in response to a mock assault where troops were assumed to be attacked by bioweapons The live-fire component of this year’s annual Han Kuang military exercises, Taiwan’s major war games involving all military branches, began yesterday morning and is to run until Friday to test the armed forces’ capability to fend off a Chinese invasion. The 37th edition of the annual event officially began after the Ministry of National Defense’s Joint Operations Command Center, also known as the Hengshan Command Center, announced the initiation of the five-day live-fire drills. Yesterday’s drills were focused on testing the military’s preservation and maintenance of combat capabilities in the event of a full-scale Chinese invasion. As part of the drills, air force
WELCOME BACK: Foreign spouses or minor children of Taiwanese can now directly apply for a visa with representative offices overseas, the CECC said Regulations on applications for entry to the nation by foreign spouses or minor children of Taiwanese have been relaxed effective immediately, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday, as it reported two new local and three imported cases of COVID-19. Deputy Minister of the Interior Chen Tsung-yen (陳宗彥), deputy head of the center, said the relaxation meant that such applications would be treated as general cases, instead of special ones that are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. “Considering the recent local COVID-19 situation and the needs of foreign spouses and children to visit their family in Taiwan, we are allowing Taiwan’s
PINGTUNG EXERCISE: The pilots tested their ability to land on the 24m-wide provincial highway, preparing for a scenario in which dedicated airstrips are damaged Emergency landing and takeoff drills for military aircraft were held on a provincial highway for the first time early yesterday as part of Taiwan’s Han Kuang military exercises, testing the ability of pilots and aircraft to land on narrow roads were airstrips to be damaged. The drill began at 6:30am on a 2.26km section of Provincial Highway No. 1 linking Pingtung County’s Jiadong (佳冬) and Fangliao (枋寮) townships. An Indigenous Defense Fighter, an F-16V, a Mirage 2000-5 and an E-2K early warning aircraft participated. The planes landed on the highway in that order at 6:30am, 6:32am, 6:34am and 6:36am before taking off at