French customs seize pangolin scales headed for Vietnam


Updated : 05/01/2013 08:34 GMT + 7

French customs authorities on Tuesday announced the seizure of some 50 kilogrammes (110 pounds) of pangolin scales from Cameroon headed for Vietnam, where they are prized as aphrodisiacs.

Hauls of the protected species' scales, also believed to combat allergies, have been on the rise.

The latest seizure at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport was the third in April, for a total estimated value of nearly 75,000 euros ($100,000), customs said in a statement.

The total April haul of nearly 100 kilos (220 pounds) of the scales represents between 300 and 400 pangolins, also known as scaly anteaters, the statement said.

The land mammal is nearly entirely covered with the scales, made of keratin, the same protein that makes up human hair.

Many also believe that the scales help "protect against bad luck", the statement said.

Trade in pangolins is banned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Two Asian species are endangered, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), but the sizes of their populations are unknown.

Six batches of pangolin scales have been seized at Charles de Gaulle since 2009, and international trafficking in the animal "seems to be on the rise", airport customs chief Sebastien Tiran told AFP.