When Singaporean customs officials opened a shipping container en route to Vietnam from Nigeria on April 3, 2019, they found piles of canvas sacks stuffed full of dusty, dried flakes. Packed along with nearly 180 kilograms (400 pounds) of carved elephant ivory, the flakes turned out to be pangolin scales — 12.9 metric tons of them. It was the largest seizure of pangolin scales ever recorded, gathered by killing as many as 36,000 of the small forest-dwelling mammals.
Then, just five days later, they found another container. This time, there were 12.7 metric tons of scales inside, labeled “cassia seeds” and also bound for Vietnam. Like the previous shipment, its origin was Nigeria.