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