Hong Kong Customs Rescue Endangered Species, Seize Contraband Animal Parts

Published: 01 February 2024

Hong Kong Wildlife TraffickingPictured: 4,200 kilograms of dried shark skins, suspected to be taken from endangered species. (Photo: Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department, License)

By Henry Pope

In a busy first half of the week, Hong Kong Customs rescued hundreds of animals across multiple endangered species, while also seizing contraband parts from animal traffickers that included tiger teeth, pangolin meat, and shark skins.

Customs officers carried out four interventions on Sunday and Tuesday, rescuing hundreds of live lobsters and endangered turtles from traffickers; tiger teeth, pangolin meat, and dried shark skin were also confiscated before they could be sold on the black market.

In one case, police intercepted a 50-year-old male, who planned to pass through Hong Kong via ferry to Shekou. His multi-stop trip had already taken him through Nigeria via Ethiopia as well.

Upon searching his luggage, airport personnel discovered undocumented tiger teeth and pangolin meat, both of which were from endangered species listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

The same day, a 45-year-old woman, who had arrived from Tokyo, was discovered to have 64 live turtles, also belonging to an endangered species, in her suitcase. On the black market, police estimated that the turtles could have netted her HK$650,000 (US$84,000).

Both individuals were arrested and face a potential HK$10 million ($1.28 million) fine along with a potential 10 year sentence.

On Tuesday, customs officers seized roughly 4,200 kg of dried animal skins, suspected to have once belonged to various endangered species of shark. The skins held an estimated market value of about HK$1.7 million ($217,000).

Authorities later determined that the container had arrived from Thailand and subsequently arrested the director of the consignee company linked to it. The investigation is ongoing.

Lastly, police reported Monday another smuggling case involving the cross-border trafficking of approximately 600 kg of live lobsters, which customs had seized from an outbound vehicle trying to pass itself off as not carrying any cargo.

Upon closer inspection, the lobsters were discovered inside of 26 styrofoam boxes. Police arrested the truck’s 53-year-old male driver, but released him on bail pending further investigation.

If found guilty of illicitly transporting unmanifested cargo, he faces a maximum fine of HK$2 million ($256,000) along with a potential seven year prison sentence.