More than 27 tonnes of pangolins and their scales – believed to be worth at least £1.6m – have been seized from traffickers by Malaysian authorities on Borneo.
Police discovered two major factories on the island’s eastern state of Sabah.
They found containers holding 1,800 boxes of frozen pangolins, a further 572 frozen pangolins in separate freezers, 61 live pangolins and 361kg of the animal’s scales.
Two bear paws and the carcasses of four flying foxes were also recovered in what was the biggest such bust in the southeast Asian country.
The pangolin, a scaly mammal, is said to be the most trafficked animal on Earth.
Demand for the animal and their products has dramatically increased over the last few years, as authorities struggle to control a rampant smuggling trade.
The creature’s scales contain keratin, which is used in traditional Chinese medicine, and its meat is considered a delicacy in China and other Asian countries.
Wildlife group Traffic said the frozen pangolin bodies found in the raid would likely have been sold for meat consumption.
Officials raided the Sabah facilities last week after a tip-off alerted them to the large operation.
A 35-year-old man, who is believed to have been a factory manager, has been detained.
Sabah police chief Omar Mammah said initial investigations showed the factory had operated for seven years and traffickers had bought the pangolins from illegal hunters for distribution locally.
He added that Sabah had “been implicated in over 40 tons of pangolin smuggling since August 2017, including 13 tons of African pangolin scales”.
The latest seizures echo the discovery of logbooks kept by another pangolin trafficking ring in 2009, which revealed 22,200 pangolins had been killed and 834.4kg of scales sourced and supplied over 13 months.
There was another massive seizure of pangolin scales at a Sabah port and in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur in 2017, suggesting that Sabah has emerged as a hub for trafficking the critically endangered creatures.
In December last year, Sky News obtained footage of a gang member prodding and poking a pangolin for amusement in South Africa.
Four of the traffickers involved were arrested and their contraband was handed over to an animal hospital.
According to international organisation WWF, an estimated 116,990 to 233,980 pangolins were killed between 2011 and 2013 based on reported seizures.
But experts believe seizures represent as little as 10% of the actual number of pangolins being illegally trafficked.
Ukraine election: TV star-turned-politician could uproot corrupt elites | World News
Ukrainians will head to the polls today to choose their next president in a run-off vote.
Petro Poroshenko will have managed to pull off something pretty close to a miracle if he manages to beat his rival Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
The latest opinion polls show Zelenskiy streaks ahead – on 72% to Poroshenko’s 25%.
At Kiev’s Olympic stadium on Friday the two men traded insults to the wild cheers of some 22,000 of their supporters may have swayed a few undecided but the vast majority of Ukrainians seem determined that the old guard must go.
Zelenskiy – an actor and comedian – is trading himself as just your average kind of guy.
That’s what the character he plays in his Servant of the People series is – a history teacher who unexpectedly becomes president. But Zelenskiy is not an ordinary guy. He’s a TV celebrity.
His runaway electoral success is mostly down, so far, to the fact that he’s not Mr Poroshenko.
He is a breath of fresh air in Ukraine’s stagnant post-Soviet politics.
After the debate, Zelenskiy supporter Tanya Finayeva broke down in tears when she tried to explain to me what she felt was wrong with her country’s politics.
“When you see these people that you know all the time just took money, [who] don’t do anything for people, [who] just do everything for themselves, I feel pain and that is why I am crying,” she said.
“And I feel that just maybe we will have a chance with him.”
Never mind the fact his policy ideas are thin. He’s refused to do any but a tiny handful of interviews (the last a deal that if he lost a game of ping pong with a journalist, he’d give them an interview), so it’s up to his policy advisers to provide a bit more clarity.
Take ending the war in the east, for example. Zelenskiy has said he wants to start an information war with Russia in Donbass (spoiler: there already is one).
Dmytro Razumkov, who would be in charge of domestic affairs under a Zelenskiy presidency, told me his plan was to bring the US and UK into the Normandy format – the diplomatic squad of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine – which is tasked with resolving the war in eastern Ukraine. It is not much of a brainwave.
But Poroshenko’s pitch to the nation as commander in chief – the only man tough enough to take on Vladimir Putin – was ill-judged.
It was not what people wanted to hear. As awful as the ongoing, grinding war in the east is, and as much of a concern as it still is, Ukrainians are bored of the talk of war defining their day-to-day lives.
A Poroshenko supporter leaving the stadium last night told me Zelenskiy was a joke.
It wasn’t a riff on his comedian status, it was said with utter scorn.
But despite Poroshenko putting on a performance worthy of his showman rival, it looks very much as though come Sunday night he will have to gracefully bow out.
Zelenskiy’s political career has come from nowhere.
Running a country is a serious business, but how refreshing it would be if fresh young blood really could uproot the corrupt elites which characterise post-Soviet states.
If that happens, you can be sure that Putin will be watching and that he’ll be worried.
Power to the people is not a message he likes.
Twenty years since Columbine shooting marked with vigils | US News
The names of 12 students and a teacher who were killed in the Columbine High School shooting have been read out at a ceremony marking 20 years since the massacre.
White doves were released, ending three days of gatherings to remember those who died on 20 April 1999, when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, aged 18 and 17, attacked the Colorado school.
They exchanged fire with police officers at the scene before shooting and killing themselves.
They had planted explosives inside and left the building and waited, but went back in when they failed to detonate and began their killing spree.
More than 2,000 people attended the memorial event in a park near the high school on Saturday.
Dawn Anna’s 18-year-old daughter Lauren Townsend was killed in the library.
At the memorial, Ms Anna said: “We’re changed. We’re weaker in some places, but hopefully we’re stronger in most of them. Our hearts have giant holes in them. But our hearts are bigger than they were 20 years ago.”
Patrick Ireland was shot three times but managed to escape.
He was captured on camera dangling from a second-storey window before falling into the arms of SWAT officers.
He had to learn to walk and talk again.
“Our innocence was stolen,” he said.
“How can that ever be repaid? But forgiveness is a process. It takes time. It takes practice, repetition, translating that rhythm into moving.”
Frank DeAngelis, who was the school’s head teacher at the time, said he begins every morning by reciting the names of those who died.
Mr DeAngelis read the 13 names aloud to end the memorial.
A bell rang 13 times, and white doves soared into the sky for each victim.
Visitors left cards and flowers at the memorial site which sits atop a hill overlooking the school.
The concrete wall contains several plaques, some featuring quotes from officials and Columbine students and teachers, the others with the names of the teacher and 12 students who were killed.
Ahead of the various memorial events, the FBI announced they were hunting a teenager “infatuated” with the 1999 Columbine massacre, who had travelled to Colorado on Monday night from Miami and bought weapons from a store in the area.
Sol Pais, 18, was later found dead at the bottom of Mount Evans, southwest of Denver, at the Echo Lake Lodge, with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Authorities said she had made violent threats to schools in Denver ahead of the 20th anniversary of the attack.
The victims were Cassie Bernall, 17, Steven Curnow, 14, Corey DePooter, 17, Kelly Fleming, 16, Matthew Kechter, 16, Daniel Mauser, 15, Daniel Rohrbough, 15, Rachel Scott, 17, Isaiah Shoels, 18, John Tomlin, 16, Lauren Townsend, 18, Kyle Velasquez 18 and teacher William ‘Dave’ Sanders, 47.
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