In two separate raids, Malaysian officials have seized around 140 pangolins from smugglers who tried to cross the border with the critically endangered creatures.

On Tuesday (7 November), a raid was carried out at a house in the town of Changloon which is close to the Thailand border, Kedah State Wildlife Department chief Muhammad Ali Che Aman told AFP.

A 37-year-old Malaysian man was caught with 85 pangolins worth an estimated Malaysian ringgit (RM) 350,000 (£63,000). Che Aman said that along with the Malaysian there were two Thai nationals who managed to escape.

"We believe that the pangolins were to be sold as exotic meats in China as the demand for such food is high there.

"We also suspect that the Malaysian we detained was a runner for the syndicate," Che Aman said.

According to the Malaysia Border Control Agency (Aksem), on the same day, 55 packages containing pangolins and five packages of pangolin scales worth RM170,000 was seized from a vehicle.

Kedah Aksem Commander Abd Latif Abd Rahman said that the animals were found in the boot of a Toyota Altis car owned by a 45-year-old Thai national near the Immigration, Customs, Quarantine and Security Complex (ICQS).

"Five packets of pangolin scales with an estimated weight of 25 kilograms were believed to be meant for cosmetic and traditional medicinal use in China. We believe there were more than 55 pangolins as one or two packages had baby pangolins," Abd Rahman told local reporters, according to The Malaymail Online website.

The seized items and the Thai man were handed to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks for further investigations.

Pangolins are the world's most heavily trafficked mammals, which were recovered on Tuesday in two separate raids, the Free Malaysia Today website reported.

Pangolins, which are also known as scaly anteaters, can fetch a high price in the black market. Their meat is prized as a delicacy and their body parts as ingredients in traditional medicine in some areas of Asia and Africa.

pangolin illegal wildlife trade
Pangolins are the world’s most heavily trafficked mammals - Representational Image AFP