More than seven tonnes of scales believed to have come from endangered pangolins were found hidden in a shipping container that arrived in Hong Kong from Africa, bound for mainland China, customs officers said on Friday. The 7,100kg haul – the second-biggest seizure of its kind in a decade – had an estimated market value of HK$3.55 million (US$450,000), according to the Customs and Excise Department. It was seized on Friday when officers opened the 40 foot container for inspection at the Tsing Yi customs cargo examination compound. Its manifest claimed it contained more than 880 bags of plastic raw materials. “A total of 284 bags carrying suspected pangolin scales were found in the container,” a law enforcement source said. He said the consignment was destined for Guangdong province. He said it was possible the scales would be used in Chinese medicine. The department said no one had been arrested and the investigation was still under way. The biggest recent similar haul was of 7.2 tonnes of pangolin scales, also found in a container from Nigeria, in May last year. Chinese firm’s vice-president loses job after eating pangolin on holiday In Hong Kong, importing or exporting undeclared cargo carries a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment and a HK$2 million fine. Under the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance, the maximum penalty for importing or exporting an endangered species without a licence is 10 years in jail and a HK$10 million fine.