A record haul of 50 rhino horns with an estimated value of £12million has been seized at Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia.
The horns were destined for Vietnam where there is booming demand for them for use in traditional medicine which is bought by the country’s growing middle class.
The same grisly shipment – which represents dozens of animals either killed or butchered - also included the bones of nine tigers and bears.
Malaysian customs officers seized a record £12million shipment of rhino horn at Kuala Lumpur airport as it was traveling to Vietnam
The haul is the largest ever stopped in Malaysia both in terms of number and weight of the horns, and represents dozens of animals which were either killed or mutilated
It is not known exactly where the animals lived prior to being killed, though most of the rhino horn sent into Asia originates in Africa.
Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim, head of Malaysia’s wildlife department, said the seizure was ‘the biggest ever in (Malaysia’s) history in terms of the number of horns and value’.
He said officers acted on a tip-off before finding the bones in the cargo terminal of the airport on August 13.
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Trade in rhino horn was banned globally in 1977 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), but illegal hunters have decimated rhino populations to sate rampant demand in East Asia.
A single kilo of rhino horn can fetch tens of thousands of dollars in the region, where many falsely believe it can cure cancer.
All rhino species are under threat of extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
There is huge demand for rhino horn across Asia but particularly in Vietnam among the country’s growing middle classes
Authorities have not arrested anyone over the shipment because it was sent using false documents but are now working to find out who is responsible
Authorities have not made any arrests over the seizures because the bones were shipped with falsified documents.
However, efforts are underway to uncover whoever is responsible.
Elizabeth John, from wildlife trade watchdog Traffic, described the rhino horn seizure as ‘staggering’ and urged authorities to track down the people behind it.
Kuala Lumpur is a hub for cheap flights around Southeast Asia, and has become a key transit point in the smuggling of rare animal parts.
Last year, Malaysia seized about $3.1 million worth of rhino horns flown in from Mozambique via Qatar.
Separately, authorities arrested a man on July 13 for illegal possession of three baby Sumatran orangutans, Abdul Kadir said.
“The suspect was believed to have been trading wildlife online and was arrested while dealing with a buyer,” he said.
Malaysia will return the animals to Indonesia, he said.
Orangutans live in lowland forests on Borneo, an island shared by Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as on Indonesia’s island of Sumatra.
They are endangered, with populations declining due to rampant deforestation and hunting.
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