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Hong Kong seizes nearly 800 smuggled elephant tusks

AFP 09/01/2011 00:15
Hong Kong seizes nearly 800 smuggled elephant tusks - Hong Kong - crime - ivory - smuggling


Hong Kong has seized nearly two tonnes of elephant ivory worth about $1.7 million hidden in a shipment from Malaysia and detained a local man over the haul, customs authorities said Wednesday.



Inspectors found 794 pieces of tusks, weighing 1,898 kilos (4,184 pounds), concealed behind stones in a container marked for factory use at the city's port on Monday, a spokeswoman for the customs department told AFP.

A 66-year-old Hong Kong man was arrested and was under investigation, she added, but declined to confirm whether the shipment was destined for China, a major market where ivory is ground up and used in traditional medicine.

If convicted, the man faces a fine and imprisonment of up to seven years under customs or wildlife protection laws.

Anti-trafficking wildlife groups lauded authorities for the haul, part of the illegal elephant ivory trade that has been rising globally since 2004, largely due to increasing Chinese demand.

"This looks like another huge consignment of ivory aimed at the Chinese market," Tom Milliken, a coordinator of wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, said in a statement.

"The authorities in Hong Kong are to be congratulated on this important seizure, but it is now vital to ensure that all leads are followed to track down those responsible along the entire smuggling chain."


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