Chinese customs officials have seized nearly a tonne of smuggled scales from critically endangered pangolins being smuggled despite a police crackdown over COVID-19 fears.
Nine suspected wildlife traffickers were reportedly arrested in the southern Chinese autonomous region of Guangxi and the eastern province of Anhui, according to the General Administration of Customs.
Reports said that 820 kilogrammes (1,808 lbs) of smuggled pangolin scales were also seized.
Pangolins are considered the most trafficked animal on the planet and are sought after for their tender meat. Some cultures in Africa and Asia also believe that their scales have medicinal properties.
They have large keratin scales covering their skin and they are the only known mammals with this protection feature.
It is estimated that the keratin scales came from around 17,000 pangolins, classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The bust took place during a police crackdown on the trafficking of wildlife and related products amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
According to local media, one of the suspects, surnamed Wang, ordered the pangolin scales from abroad and instructed gangs to smuggle them into China.
The scales reportedly entered China via Guangxi, which borders with Vietnam, before being shipped to Anhui and Henan to be sold at markets.
The investigation continues.
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