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.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
They stand as eyesores to most passers-by and potential public health risks to authorities, decaying buildings wrapped in tangles of exposed wire, studded with protruding leaky plastic pipes, vegetation billowing from cracks and terraces where particulates from polluted air have accumulated over time. With skyscrapers and ultramodern developments on every side, some of these “nail houses” are also sitting on land worth millions of dollars in Shenzhen’s inferno of a property market, where new-unit and second-hand home prices rival London. In battles over land and development, the nail house phenomenon has become widespread throughout China over the past two decades, with owners
An Italian alpine resort on Friday remained on high alert over fears that a vast chunk of a glacier on the slopes of the Mont Blanc massif could plummet in high temperatures. “No one gets through! No cars, bikes or pedestrians,” was the message at a checkpoint where an automatic barrier and two guards blocked the small road snaking up into a lush valley below the Planpincieux glacier, near the town of Courmayeur and the Italian-French border. The blockade has largely been greeted with contempt by the locals, one of whom said: “It’s a joke.” The huge ice block measuring around 500,000 cubic
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong (FCC) yesterday said that reporters in the territory were experiencing “highly unusual” visas problems, and called on the US and China to stop using the media as a political weapon. Journalists have been caught up in US-China tensions, with both sides placing limits or expelling reporters from their territories in the past few months. Now the spat is filtering into Hong Kong, a regional press hub nominally in charge of its own immigration policies. The FCC said in a statement that multiple media firms had reported delays getting visas in recent months. “The delays have affected journalists