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Jakarta Post

HK nabs $5.3M in ivory, rhino horns, leopard skins

  • The Jakarta Post

    The Jakarta Post

Hong Kong   /   Wed, August 7, 2013   /  02:32 pm

A shipment of illegal ivory, rhino horns and leopard skins worth $5.3 million was seized in Hong Kong's second big bust of endangered species products in a month.

The haul is also the latest in a string of big ivory seizures over the past year in the southern Chinese city.

Some 1,120 ivory tusks, 13 rhino horns and five pieces of leopard skin weighing a total of 2,266 kilograms (4,997 pounds) were confiscated at Hong Kong's port, the government announced Wednesday.

They were found Tuesday hidden in a shipping container declared as wood from Nigeria.

Wildlife activists say China's growing presence in Africa is to blame for an unprecedented surge in poaching of elephants for their tusks, most of which are believed to be smuggled into China and Thailand to make ivory ornaments.

According to CITES, the international body that monitors endangered species, the illegal trade in ivory has more than doubled since 2007.

Ivory can fetch up to $2,000 per kilogram ($910 per pound) on the black market and more than $50,000 for an entire tusk.

Last month, more than 2 tons of elephant tusks worth an estimated $2.25 million found in a container from Togo were confiscated by Hong Kong customs officials, who said it was the city's biggest ivory seizure since 2010.

Demand for rhino horn is driven by the belief in Asia that ground-up horn cures diseases, which is not supported by medical evidence. Rhino horn is made of keratin, a tough protein found in human fingernails.