Customs officials in Singapore found almost AU$55 Million worth of Pangolin scales hidden in a cargo container that was labelled as carrying frozen meat.

"This is the largest shipment of Pangolin scales seized in a single haul globally in recent years," the Singapore Customs and the National Parks Board announced in a statement.

The 40 foot container came from Nigeria and was en route to Vietnam, which like China has a thriving black market for endangered species body parts that are used in so-called "traditional medicine", also known as "folk remedies".  More than 14 tons of scales were stuffed into 230 bags.  The same shipment also hid about 400 pounds of illegal elephant ivory with about US$124,000.

The Pangolin is also known as a "scaly anteater", an insectivorous mammal found in Africa as well as South and Southeast Asia;  despite its armored appearance, it is actually pretty docile and reclusive.  Unfortunately, it's being poached into extinction because of its meat and scales, which (like Rhino horn) are made of keratin, the same stuff as fingernails.  Since 2014, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified all eight Pangolin species as "threatened with extinction," with two now listed as "critically endangered". 

"Pangolin meat is eaten as a luxury dish in high-end urban restaurants, and scales are used to treat a range of ailments (in traditional medicine)," said the IUCN's pangolin researcher Dan Challender.  "While Pangolin trafficking has historically been confined to Asia, the most worrying trend in the last decade has been the emergence of intercontinental trafficking in African Pangolin scales to Asia."