New joint operation with Nigeria Customs Service: two suspected high-level wildlife traffickers arrested, 1 tonne of pangolin scales seized

Acting on intelligence provided by the Wildlife Justice Commission, Nigeria Customs Service officers conducted an operation on 14 September that resulted in the arrest of two suspects in possession of 15 sacks containing over 1 tonne of pangolin scales, representing over 2,500 dead pangolins, and 5 kg of pangolin claws.

Wildlife products seized were displayed today at a press conference held in Lagos, Nigeria, by the Nigeria Customs Service.

The suspected individuals are part of the same major pangolin and ivory trafficking network that was already disrupted during a joint operation by the Nigeria Customs Service and supported by the Wildlife Justice Commission last July. That operation resulted in three arrests and the seizure of over 7 tonnes of pangolin scales, 870 kg of ivory and other wildlife products.

The Wildlife Justice Commission believes that this network, operating in Nigeria and elsewhere in Central Africa, is responsible for more than 50% of the major ivory and pangolin seizures that occurred globally between 2018-2021.

This network was already reacting to the disruption caused by the operation conducted in July and was beginning to displace to neighbouring countries and possibly slowing their operations. These follow-up arrests and seizures effected on 14 September are believed to have corresponded with their first foray back into supplying large quantities of pangolin scales since July.  

Investigations into this network and their criminal activities continue.

The Wildlife Justice Commission wishes to congratulate Nigeria Custom Service for this follow up operation and outcome against a major transnational organised criminal network, with demonstrates their persistence in the fight against organised wildlife crime. This follow up operation is yet another example of the effective results that public-private partnerships can achieve by working together to disrupt organised crime. We will continue to support the efforts of Nigeria Custom Service on the investigation, disruption and dismantling of this transnational criminal network.

Olivia Swaak-Goldman, Wildlife Justice Commission Executive Director

Seizures of pangolin scales ranked by quantities seized 2019-2021
3 Apr 201912.9 tonnesSingapore
8 Apr 201912.7 tonnesSingapore
21 Jul 201911.9 tonnesSingapore
Oct 201910.65 tonnesChina
19 Jan 20209.5 tonnesNigeria
21 Jan 20218.8 tonnesNigeria
22 Mar 20198.3 tonnesVietnam
16 Jan 20198.268 tonnesHong Kong SAR
28 Jul 20217.1 tonnesNigeria