Last week, a Chinese ship crashed into a UNESCO protected reef in the Philippines. As if illegally entering the seas around the World Heritage Site wasn’t enough, authorities found almost 2,000 dead pangolins on board, a protected species also known as a scaly anteater. Pangolin meat and scales are thought to have healing properties in China, and they sell for hundreds of dollars per kilogram. The 12 crew members are currently being held under chargers of poaching and attempted bribery, with further charges concerning trespassing in protected waters and damaging coral pending.

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Of the four Asian pangolin species, two are listed as endangered, but as of yet it is unclear which species the bodies found on the vessel come from. The animals were found frozen and rolled up in boxes, with their scales already removed in the cargo of the ship. A ban on pangolin trading has been in effect since 2002, but their popularity has increased the illicit trade in many Asian nations.

Aside from being charged with animal poaching, the Chinese crew faces charges for damaging the Tubbataha marine sanctuary, which they claim they accidentally wandered into from Malaysia. Earlier this year, a US Navy ship struck this same reef, and required a complete dismantling after it became stuck. It is unclear what chargers or fines the Chinese fishermen may face for the reef damage, but poaching and possession of pangolin are crimes that carry penalties of 12 years and 6 years in prison, respectively, as well as up to $300,000 in fines.

Via NBC World News

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