Authorities in Hong Kong seized $8 million worth of smuggled endangered species parts in one of the biggest busts the city has ever recorded.
Hong Kong’s customs department announced that in a joint raid with their mainland counterparts, police seized 8,300 kilograms (18,300 pounds) of suspected pangolin scales and 2,100 kilograms (4,600 pounds) of suspected ivory tusks from a 40-foot container ship that was supposed to be transporting frozen beef from Nigeria.
Hong Kong customs said it was the largest single amount of pangolin scales ever recorded in a bust.
Two employees of a Hong Kong-based trading company were arrested in connection with the seizure and have since been released on bail.
Hong Kong has long been considered a hub for illicit wildlife trade due to its busy port and status of a gateway into mainland china.
And unlike the mainland, it is still legal to buy certain types of ivory in Hong Kong.
Around 400 licensed sellers in the city are permitted to sell ivory material that dates back before 1989, when an international treaty banned the trade. Wildlife advocates say that this legal trade is used to mask the sale of illicit ivory, with pre-1989 ivory and tusks smuggled from recent poachers mixed in together.
Mainland China banned the trade of ivory in 2018 in an effort to stymie demand in the world’s largest ivory market, though it’s unclear to what extent the measure is working. Hong Kong plans to phase out the trade by 2021.
Pangolins are believed to be the most trafficked animal in the world and at risk of extinction.
Their scales and blood are sought after for supposed healing properties, and their meat is considered a delicacy in parts of China. There is no scientific evidence that pangolin scales have medicinal value.
CNN’s Swati Gupta contributed to this report.