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Hong Kong: record seizure of illegal rhino horns, ivory

Hong Kong customs officials find $2.2 million in rhino horns and ivory products hidden in shipping container from Cape Town, South Africa, and destined from other parts of Asia.

Ivory chopsticks 11 15 2011Enlarge
Ivory chopsticks seized by the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority during a 2009 raid of the Merkato, a market in central Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Yeneneh Teka/Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority/GlobalPost)

Hong Kong customs officers have seized a record number of rhino horns, as well as ivory chopsticks and bracelets, hidden in a shipment from Cape Town, South Africa.

Customs agents found 33 rhino horns, 758 ivory chopsticks and 127 ivory bracelets, estimated to be worth $2.2 million. The rhino horns weighed 190 lbs, the largest seizure ever made in Hong Kong, a customs spokesman told the South China Morning Post

More from GlobalPost: South Africa: rhino poaching at record high, WWF says

The illegal wildlife products were concealed in a container that arrived by sea from Cape Town, and were believed to be headed for other parts of Asia, the SCMP reported.

According to the Associated Press, the illegal rhino horns and ivory products were hidden in a container with "scrap plastic" as its listed cargo, and had been wrapped in dark plastic and aluminum foil in an attempt to avoid detection by X-ray scanners.

Customs officials told the AP that while they sometimes find single rhino horns hidden in the luggage of travelers entering Hong Kong, this is the first large-scale seizure from a shipping container.

More from GlobalPost: South African rhinos under fire

The world's rhino population is facing a serious threat from poaching. In South Africa, a record number of rhinos have been killed by poachers this year, fueled by demand for rhino horns in Vietnam and China, where they are believed to have medicinal properties.

There have been no arrests so far in connection with the ivory products and rhino horns seized in Hong Kong.

In August, Hong Kong customs agents seized 794 ivory tusks from Africa, worth $1.6 million. The ivory had been hidden in a container ship from Malaysia. 

More from GlobalPost: Illegal ivory trade thrives in Africa

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/china/111115/hong-kong-rhino-horns-ivory-seizure-south-africa-rhino-poaching