Vietnam police bust bone-smuggling ring

2010-09-16 09:09

Hanoi, Vietnam – Police have broken up what is believed to be the biggest rare animal bone-trafficking ring ever discovered in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi, a police official said.

The smugglers allegedly trafficked huge quantities of rare-animal bones, including tiger and elephant bones, mainly for use in traditional medicine.

“This is the biggest wild animal bone-smuggling case ever in Hanoi,” said Doan Huu Chau, head of Hanoi’s environmental police department. “I estimate [we found] about 600 kilograms of wild animal bones.”

Police stopped and searched a car last night driven by Phan Lac Ha, which contained 11kg of tiger bones and 10kg of forest deer bones, officers said.

Ha said he had bought the bones to make medicinal paste. Ha directed police to the bone merchant’s storehouse, where the larger cache of bones was found, including several tiger skeletons.

State press reported today that the bones also included a set of elephant tusks. Ha said he had paid about $7 000 (about R50 000) for the tiger bones and $500 for the forest deer bones, the newspaper Thanh Nien said.

A police official who asked to remain anonymous said police had found evidence tied to the smuggling ring in early September and that it had operated in a number of provinces.

Illegal trafficking in tigers, monkeys and other rare animals is widespread in Vietnam and China, where their bones and other body parts are often used in traditional medicine.

A kilogram of pure tiger-bone paste can sell for up to $5 000 on the black market.

Under Vietnamese law, hunting or trading in rare animals is punishable by a prison term of up to seven years and a fine of up to 20 million dong (about R8 800).

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