Singapore authorities have seized 8.8 tonnes (8,800kg) of elephant ivory, in a haul heading to Vietnam through Singapore from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The tusks are estimated to be valued at $12.9 million (AED 47.4 million), and said to have come from nearly 300 African elephants. 11.9 tonnes of pangolin scales from 2,000 mammals, valued at $35.7m (AED 131 million) were also seized.

Authorities said both the ivory and pangolin scales were in a container declared to be loaded with timber, headed for Vietnam and passing through Singapore, a major transhipment hub for global trade. The illegal cargo was found after a tip-off from China’s customs department.

The pangolin, a scaly anteater, is one of the most trafficked mammals in the world. Its meat is considered a delicacy in Vietnam and China, and the scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine, though the benefits are disputed by medical scientists.

“The seized pangolin scales and elephant ivory will be destroyed to prevent them from re-entering the market,” said the Singapore Customs, Immigration and Checkpoints Authority and the National Parks Board.