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Yantai customs seizes smuggled wildlife
By Xie Chuanjiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-07-08 02:33

Yantai Customs has smashed a major smuggling case involving endangered wild animals that are worth about 25 million yuan (US$3 million) on the street.

Customs officials and police officers in Yantai examine captured monitor lizards and anteaters. [newsphoto]
Customs officials, who released information about the case Wednesday, confiscated all of the animals, which included 1,885 monitor lizards and 2,291 anteaters.

They weighed more than 25 tons in total.

Two people, surnamed Tian and Zhang, have confessed to smuggling the animals from Malaysia, said Zhang Jianqiang, director of Yantai Customs' Anti-smuggling Bureau.

Yantai is in the eastern province of Shandong and the case is the largest of its kind for the area.

A couple of weeks ago, officials became suspicious after seeing a customs declaration for frozen taros from Malaysia. The city of Yantai is a production and processing base for taros, Zhang said.

After careful inspection, customs officials found the dead lizards and anteaters -- which had been frozen -- hidden in the containers.

All of the animals were stuffed into plastic bags. Their internal organs had been frozen separately.

Zhang said huge profits were driving smugglers. The animals are sold to restaurants. A kilogram of anteater costs 100 yuan (US$12) overseas but can be sold for 600 yuan (US$72) on black markets in China's southern and eastern coastal areas.

According to international trade conventions and Chinese laws on wildlife protection, monitor lizards and anteaters are first and second-level State-protected animals, and they are not allowed to be traded, carried or posted across China's borders without licences from the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora organization.

In China, smugglers get from five years in jail to life imprisonment, or the death penalty.

The Yantai case is still being investigated.

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