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Friday, July 9, 1999 Published at 01:36 GMT 02:36 UK


World: Asia-Pacific

China cracks animal scam

Tiger and leopard skins were among the animal parts seized

Chinese police in the southwestern province of Yunan have broken up a massive smuggling ring that tried to avoid normal customs checks by sending thousands of animal parts abroad through the post.


Duncan Hewitt reports on the seizure
The gang, which involved hundreds of people, was caught when officials inspected mailbags in Ruili on the border with Burma, according to the Chinese news agency.

Bear skins and almost half a ton of cobra and viper skins were seized in what the authorities described as the biggest discovery of animal part smuggling in 50 years.


[ image: A single tiger can be worth a small fortune]
A single tiger can be worth a small fortune
Inspectors traced the consignment to a house where they discovered 575 python skins, along with elephant tusks, monkey skulls, the skins of 11 Chinese tigers and a number of leopards, and the skins of 575 pythons.

Officials said they were all packed up and ready to be posted.

The gang is believed to have sent around 5,000 animal skins by this method to avoid border checks.

The Chinese authorities say the find is a major success in their campaign to protect endangered species against an illegal trade that is proving hard to stamp out.

Huge profits

According to the BBC's Duncan Hewitt in Beijing, the illegal trade is still going strong, fuelled by huge profits from furs and the animal parts used in traditional Asian medicine.


[ image: Demand for Chinese medicines is fuelling the trade]
Demand for Chinese medicines is fuelling the trade
The seizure is a reminder of the scale of the problem, with many of the animals involved on the country's number one protected list.

There are now thought to be less than 100 Chinese tigers left in the wild and Yunan province where the find was made has launched campaigns to save rare species including the Golden Monkey.

Despite a nationwide campaign against smuggling of all kinds, the problem remains particularly rampant in China's border areas, with the animal parts seized in this case apparently destined for South East Asia.



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Internet Links


UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species

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