Hong Kong customs seized a record 40kg of rhino horns worth about HK$8 million (US$1 million) from Johannesburg en route to Vietnam, the latest bust for authorities trying to tackle the rising volume of endangered species trafficked through the Chinese territory.
The seizure came less than one month after customs stopped a massive smuggling operation from Africa, seizing a record quantity of pangolin scales and more than 1,000 ivory tusks.
Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department officials on Thursday said in statement that the rhino horns were found in two check-in carton boxes destined for Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Two men were arrested, they said, adding that it was a record haul for airline passengers.
“It’s shocking to us that today’s 40kg rhino horn seizure equates to about 20 percent of the total amount of rhino horn seized in Hong Kong from 2013 to the end of October 2018,” conservation group WildAid said.
The former British colony is one of the world’s primary wildlife trafficking transit points, supplying an array of wildlife products, including shark’s fin and rhino horn, across Asia and particularly China.
Much of the trade supplies the traditional Chinese medicine sector. For instance, highly valued rhino horn is believed to treat issues from cancer to clearing toxins and curing hangovers.
The territory remains a global black spot, with organized criminal gangs taking advantage of the special administrative region’s geographic location, logistics network and relatively lax enforcement.
All species of rhino are listed under Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which means that it is illegal to trade them internationally. There are less than 29,000 rhinos alive in the wild and in captivity.
China has made significant strides in wildlife protection in the past few years, but it also has formidable profit-driven wildlife business interests.
After pressure from some breeders, the Chinese State Council in October last year said that it would replace a 1993 ban on the trade of tiger bones and rhino horn, opening up exceptions under “special circumstances,” including medical research.
However, in November last year, Beijing postponed the move following widespread protest from conservation groups.
Hong Kong authorities last year raised penalties for smuggling endangered species to a maximum fine of HK$10 million and a 10 year prison sentence.
However, conservation groups have said that wildlife crime is treated less seriously, with prosecutions still paltry.
ADM Capital Foundation, which focuses on environmental challenges across Asia, last month wrote in a report that wildlife trafficking should be incorporated under Hong Kong’s Organised and Serious Crime Ordinance.
Doing so would provide “a powerful disincentive to wildlife criminals and, importantly, would prevent reinvestment of profits into further criminal activities,” the report said.
TARNISHED LEGACY: Woodrow Wilson served as the university’s president before becoming the US’ 28th leader, but his racism was ‘significant and consequential’ Princeton University is removing former US president Woodrow Wilson’s name from its public policy school and one of its residential colleges after trustees concluded that the 28th president’s “racist thinking and policies” made him “an inappropriate namesake.” The Ivy League school’s trustees made the decision on Friday, according to a statement on Saturday. It comes at a time of widespread rethinking of the US’ racial legacy. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, energized by a series of high-profile deaths of black Americans, has resulted in the removal of Confederate monuments, flags and symbols of racism across the US. Deleting Wilson’s name at Princeton
‘FULLY ENCLOSED’: Residents of Anxin County would be confined to their homes and would only be allowed out once a day to buy necessities such as food and medicine China yesterday imposed a strict lockdown on nearly half a million people near the capital to contain a fresh COVID-19 cluster as authorities warned the outbreak was still “severe and complicated.” After China largely brought the virus under control, hundreds have been infected in Beijing and cases have emerged in Hebei Province. Health officials said that Anxin County — about 150km from Beijing — would be “fully enclosed and controlled,” the same strict measures imposed at the height of the pandemic in the city of Wuhan earlier this year. Only one person from each family would be allowed to go out once a
Japan said it opposed changes to the G7 nations as it pushed back against a reform plan by US President Donald Trump that would have rival South Korea this year join in an expanded meeting. Tokyo has told the US it stands against South Korea’s participation on the grounds of differences in policy on China and North Korea, Kyodo News reported this weekend, citing more than one source related to Japanese and US diplomacy. Japan also wants to maintain its status as the only Asian country in the group, the news agency added. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga yesterday told reporters that
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around