Largest Seizure of Rhino Horns in SE Asia's History

By Nina Rygh, Asia Reporter

A cargo shipment containing 50 rhino horns was seized by the Malaysian authorities on August 13th, making it the largest single seizure of rhino horns in Southeast Asian history.

The Royal Malaysian customs pursued the shipment after receiving a tip from officials at the Pos Aviation export branch. The officials were suspicious of a consignment at the cargo terminal building of the airport’s Free Commercial Zone. The department of wildlife and national parks peninsular Malaysia (Perhilitan) was then called in to investigate. They quickly discovered that the officials' suspicions were correct, and the Perhilitan seized the items of the container.

The shipment, worth nearly $12 million, also included nine tiger and bear carcasses, and the Perhilitan will take DNA samples and run tests to more thoroughly identify the animals. Perhilitan is working with Interpol on the case, which is being investigated as an illegal export offense under Malaysia’s International Trade in Endangered Species Act 2008.

Malaysia, a major Asian transit point for illegal trafficking of endangered species, is believed to have been a layover for the cargo. Initial reports suggest it originated from Africa and was bound for Hanoi, Vietnam.

“This was a very unusual mix of wildlife parts found—rhino horns which were clearly not from Asia," said Kanitha Krishnasamy, TRAFFIC’s Acting Southeast Asia Director, "and carnivore carcasses which could have originated from the country.

“This discovery raises questions about how criminals are accumulating wildlife parts and using a multitude of routes and methods to traffic them onwards to destination countries.”

The agent who oversaw the consignment in Malaysia is under investigation according to Perhilitan Director-General Dato’ Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim. The consignment was also shipped with false documents and efforts are being made to identify the true owner of the shipment.