A Chinese court jailed 17 people on Tuesday for smuggling pangolin scales from Nigeria between 2018 and 2019. The gang was convicted of importing 23 tonnes of scales, worth 180 million yuan ($28 million).
Two men identified as masterminds of the gang were sentenced to 13 and 14 years in prison. The others were given jail terms ranging from 15 months to 12 years.
China removed pangolin body parts from its official list of traditional medicines in June and raised the animal’s protected status to the country’s highest level.
Pangolin scales are traditionally used in China treatments for different ilnesses, although there is no scientific evidence that they have any medicinal value.
Studies have also suggested that the pangolin may have been the intermediate host that transmitted the coronavirus to humans when it first emerged at a wet market in the Chinese city of Wuhan last year. China has since banned the sale of wild animals for food in such markets.
On December 31, China jailed seventeen people for smuggling ivory, made from elephant tusks, from West Africa to China. Two of them got a life sentence.