Importation and possession of rhino horns are banned in Hong Kong, with the exception of a certificate to prove the horns were acquired before July 1, 1975.
A major bust of several dozen kilograms of rhino horns, en route to Vietnam from Johannesburg, South Africa were confiscated by customs authorities at Hong Kong International Airport.
“It’s shocking to us that today’s 40-kilogram rhino horn seizure equates to about 20 percent of the total amount of rhino horn seized in Hong Kong from 2013 to the end of October 2018,” conservation group, WildAid, said.
Two men were held Thursday in connection with the 24-piece record rhino horn find, which was discovered in two check-in boxes, addressed to Ho Chi Minh City, the authorities have confirmed.
There has been a reported increase in the trafficking of endangered species - which routinely fetch high prices on the black market (horns go for up to US$60,000 per kilogram in Asia) - through Chinese territories. Traditional Chinese medicine use rhino horns to treat cancer, toxins and hangovers as well as boost virility.
This latest haul is estimated to be worth about US$1 million.
Hong Kong is one of the world’s major wildlife trafficking transit points across Asia, especially mainland China.
Just one month ago, customs dismantled a smuggling operation, from Africa, involving a large number of pangolin scales and over 1,000 ivory tusks.
Importation and possession of rhino horns are banned in Hong Kong, with the exception of a certificate to prove the horns were acquired before July 1, 1975, when the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) enacted trade regulations.
Also, Hong Kong authorities, last year, put in place stiffer penalties for smuggling endangered species, which now attracts a maximum fine of US$1.3 and a 10-year prison sentence.
"What I would like to see is less seizures and more of those who are responsible for [wildlife] crimes in the court— and not just the people who are carrying it," Sophie le Clue, environment program director of ADM Capital Foundation, told AFP.
All species of rhino — among the dangerously low global population of about 29,000 animals left, in both wild and captivity — fall under CITES Appendix 1, which states it is illegal to trade them internationally.
South Africa, which is traffickers’ main target country, is home to about 80 percent of the world’s rhino population. In 2018, some 769 rhinos were poached in the country and more than 7,100 killed over the past decade.