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March 21, 2013

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Ivory, rhino horn smuggling rises

TWO airline passengers who tried to smuggle 48 pieces of rhinoceros horn and ivory items worth over 5 million yuan (US$805,000) from France to Shanghai were arrested at Pudong International Airport by local authorities, customs officials said yesterday.

The announcement of the big bust comes as number of endangered animal and plant products retrieved from smugglers entering the city has been skyrocketing, officials said.

Last year, Shanghai Customs seized 5,055 smuggled objects from endangered animals and plants such as ivory and rhinoceros horn, doubling the number in 2011.

In January and February, customs seized 839 such objects in luggage and deliveries, tripling the number in the same period last year.

Customs seized 27 rhinoceros horns and products in three recent cases, an amount rarely seen in the past.

Rhinoceros horn is very precious as there are only about 25,000 rhinoceros left. Some consider it an amulet that also has medicinal value.

The two men arrested at Pudong airport were charged with illegally taking endangered animal products into China. Customs inspectors discovered 10 white rhinoceros horns and related products, a white rhinoceros horn cup and 37 ivory products in their luggage in January. The names of the men were not released.

The suspects said they bought the rhinoceros horn and ivory from auction houses, antique shops and fairs in Paris. They knew it was illegal to bring the products into China but anticipated hefty profits, officials said.

On March 2, another man was caught at Pudong airport trying to transport six pieces of ivory from Dubai to Shanghai. The estimated value of the items was 1.7 million yuan. The suspect, who was not named, has been detained.


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