Agarwood, Ivory and Hornbill Smuggling Attempt Foiled

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    Hong Kong customs officers found quite a trove of products from threatened species on Thursday after they stopped and searched a car at an immigration control point bordering mainland China.

    They found what’s believed to be 216 pounds (98 kilograms) of ivory, 15 pounds (seven kilograms) of hornbill beak, and two pounds (one kilogram) of agarwood in a vehicle as the driver attempted to leave Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post reports. In total, the haul could sell for more than $129,000 (one million Hong Kong dollars) on the black market, the report says.

    Hong Kong plays a leading role in the ivory black market as a transit point for ivory smuggled from Africa to Asia. As for the helmeted hornbill beaks, China is the main market for the casque, the wedge of keratin above the actual beak. The casque is carved into decorative products and jewelry, and can bring in more money per gram than elephant ivory.

    Then there’s agarwood, an aromatic wood that forms within some Aquilaria trees. It’s traded for use in perfume and traditional medicine, and is considered vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the organization that sets the conservation status of species.

    Police nabbed a man in connection with the attempted export. He was arrested “on suspicion of breaching the Import and Export Ordinance and the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance,” according to the South China Morning Post.

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