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Last Updated: Saturday, 11 October, 2003, 07:52 GMT 08:52 UK
Huge animal fur haul in Tibet
Customs officials and police have smashed the largest case of illegal fur smuggling in Tibet in more than half a century, the Chinese state news agency says.

Lhasa, showing the Potala Palace, Tibet
The smugglers used a passage through the Tibetan mountains
More than 1,200 skins of several endangered species, including tigers and leopards, were captured in the mountainous Ngamring county.

Officers have valued the haul at 6.52m yuan ($795,000) and say it was the largest single seizure of endangered animal products in the area since 1951, according to a Xinhua news agency report on Saturday.

Three Tibetans and two Nepalese have been arrested.

Animals shot

The illegal furs were intercepted on Thursday night as they were being transported by truck from neighbouring Nepal into China by two Nepalese.

The haul totalled 1,276 items and included 32 tiger pelts, 579 leopard skins and 665 otter pelts, Xinhua reported.

Most of the animals had been shot, said Li Jianwen, an officer from the regional customs department.

All the goods were said to have been transported by the two Nepalese, who came to China by a mountain pass. The case is now under further investigation.

Since 1999, Chinese customs had cracked down on 217 smuggling cases of endangered animals, uncovered 18,713 living animals and prosecuted up to 298 suspects, Xinhua said.

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