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Crime in Hong Kong

Two men arrested after Hong Kong police raid exposes 400 mostly endangered animals kept in a house and metal hut

A giant salamander, foxes, eagles, leopard cats, over 70 snakes and 10 species of fish were among the animals discovered

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 January, 2018, 10:03pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 September, 2018, 7:00pm

Two men were arrested after police found about 400 wild animals, mostly endangered species, in a village house and a metal sheet hut in the New Territories on Tuesday.

Among them were a giant salamander, foxes, leopard cats, civet cats, otters, eagles, owls, more than 70 snakes including a python, turtles, a peacock and different kinds of rodents.

Police and Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department officers, along with representatives from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, raided the three-storey house in Cornwell Garden, off Kam Sheung Road, and a nearby hut in Lin Fa Tei.

They also found a fish tank measuring 4.5ft by 5ft (1.3m by 1.5m) with about 10 different species of fish – including the Arapaima, one of the oldest fish species in the Amazon. The largest fishes were about four feet (1.2m) long.

“The live animals were found in the two locations and many of them were endangered species,” a source close to the investigation said.

“In terms of their health and living conditions, at this stage, no law has been broken. The investigation is continuing.”

The source said investigators did not rule out the possibility of it being a case of illegal trading in endangered species.

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The two men arrested were a 49-year-old believed to be the operator of the sites and a 27-year-old thought to be an employee. According to police, they were arrested on suspicion of possessing endangered and protected animals and breaching the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance. The suspects were released on bail and had to report to police next month.

Police were investigating whether the men had licences to keep the endangered species, with the source saying it was not easy to acquire licences from local authorities for breeds such as giant salamanders.

“We are still investigating [where the animals came from] and how long they have been kept at the two sites,” the source said.

Police also sought help from experts at Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden to identify the animals.

On Wednesday, 26 animals from 12 endangered species in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), including four giant salamanders, seven barn owls, four leopard cats, a Jullien’s golden carp and a black pond turtle were collected.

Officers also picked up seven animals from protected species under local laws, including civet cats and small Indian mongoose.

A spokesman also confirmed the operator of the sites did not have animal trading licenses.

Neighbours told the media that the house owner ran businesses related to animals, including a firm providing animal hospice services at a 5,000-square-foot site in Lin Fa Tei, an animal clinic and a pet shop in Yuen Long town centre. Leopard cats were often seen on the balcony of the house and the sounds the animals made caused a nuisance, they said.

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They added that a person, believed to be an employee, had posted online that newborn leopard cats were available for sale.

Under Hong Kong’s Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance, except with specific exemptions, possession of specimens of a scheduled endangered species requires a licence issued in advance from the fisheries department.

Any person contravening the licensing requirements will be prosecuted and liable to a maximum penalty of two years’ jail and a fine of HK$5 million.