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Hong Kong’s biggest seizure of pangolin scales so far this year was made this month. Photo: Handout

Hong Kong customs seizes a tonne of pangolin scales in biggest haul of year so far

  • HK$6.2 million worth of the scales and snake products found in container arriving from Indonesia
  • Haul was bound for mainland China via a warehouse in New Territories, law enforcement source suspects
Hong Kong customs has made the year’s biggest seizure so far of endangered pangolins’ scales, finding a tonne of the contraband along with 13kg of dried snake gall bladders in a shipping container arriving from Indonesia.

The HK$6.2 million (US$800,000) haul was believed to be bound for a New Territories warehouse so it could be smuggled into mainland China, a law enforcement source said.

Pangolins removed from Chinese directory of medicines

But officers from the Customs and Excise Department discovered the consignment on Wednesday last week during an inspection at the Kwai Chung cargo examination compound.

Declared as carrying frozen fish, the container arrived in the city from Jakarta about two weeks ago.

“After removing more than 1,000 bags of frozen fish from the container, officers found over 40 bags carrying pangolin scales along with one bag of dried snake gall bladders,” the source said.

He said the scales had an estimated street value of HK$6 million and the gall bladders were worth about HK$200,000.


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Believing the consignment was destined for the mainland, the source added it was possible the pangolin scales and snake gall bladders would be used in Chinese medicine.

So far, no one has been arrested in connection with the case. But the source said an investigation was under way and arrests were possible.

He said it was customs’ second seizure of pangolin scales this year after a small quantity was confiscated earlier.


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Chinese environmentalists work to expand population of endangered pangolins

In the first nine months of 2019, customs officers seized 8.7 tonnes of the scales worth HK$43 million in 11 cases.

In Hong Kong, importing or exporting undeclared cargo carries a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment and a HK$2 million fine.

Under the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance, the maximum penalty for importing or exporting an endangered species without a licence is 10 years in jail and a HK$10 million fine.

The department said the public could report any suspected smuggling activities to its 24-hour hotline on 2545 6182, or its dedicated crime-reporting email account: [email protected].