Hong Kong seizes record eight tonnes of pangolin scales

Ivory tusks and pangolin scales seized by Hong Kong Customs are seen at a news conference in Hong Kong China on Feb 1 2019

Officials estimated the value of the haul at 62 million Hong Kong dollars ($8 million).

According to him, Customs officers seized 36 bags of ivory and 171 bags of pangolin scales hidden in a container in a local terminal in Hong Kong in a special operation on Jan 16.

Hong Kong is said to be a transit point for global smuggling of endangered species.

They added that the shipment, which was bound for Vietnam, was "a record quantity for a seizure of pangolin scales".

Officials say 745 cases of illegal endangered species trafficking were exposed past year in Hong Kong.

Seized ivory elephant tusks are displayed during a press conference at the Kwai Chung Customhouse Cargo Examination Compound in Hong Kong.

"It is the largest smuggling case involving pangolin scales that Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department has cracked so far", Wong Lai-yung, divisional commander of Special Investigation Division 1 with Syndicate Crimes Investigation Bureau of Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department, told a news conference in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, on Friday.

A man and a woman from a trading company in the city have since been arrested, the department said.

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"The low temperature environment created by the ice bags and frozen meat helped mask the distinctive smell of the pangolin scales". "Eight tonnes is outrageous", said Alex Hofford, campaign manager for conservation group WildAid in Hong Kong.

Pangolins, also known as scaly anteaters, are critically endangered.

Chinese customs seized a large number of pangolin scales and several tons of ivory and ivory products after cracking down on a major smuggling case in cooperation with their Malaysian counterparts.

"It is clearly impossible that the pangolin species can withstand such high rates of poaching, trafficking and trade".

WildAid estimates 100,000 pangolins are poached from the wild each year, with all eight species of pangolin in Africa, and especially Asia, now under threat.

Officials said two people had been arrested in connection with the case.

The officials labeled the seizure a record.

Warning that the amount of contraband flooding through Hong Kong's ports was likely between five and 10 times the amount seized, they called on authorities to list wildlife trafficking offences under the city's organised crime legislation targeting drug traffickers and triad gangs.

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