Biggest-ever contraband shipment of bear paws, tiger parts seized in Primorye
VLADIVOSTOK. Jan 29 (Interfax) - Officers of the Far Eastern Operative Customs have detained smugglers preparing for transporting a large shipment of derivatives, including Amur tiger bones and skins, to China in the vicinity of Platono-Alexandrovskoye in the Khankai district of the Primorye Territory.
The officers stopped two vans and a cross-country vehicle with citizens of Russia and China at the wheel, the Amur Tiger Center said in a statement.
"They were planning to cross the icebound Khanka Lake [divided by the Russian-Chinese border] bypassing customs and border checkpoints," the statement said.
The smugglers were carrying over 1 tonne of bear paws (about 870 pieces), frog parts, tiger and bear bones, skins, teeth, and claws, Far Eastern red deer and dapple dear tails and penises, bear gall bladders, and other products, the statement said.
The cargo also included firearms, pneumatic weapons, and amber, it said.
The seized items will be examined, and experts will estimate the damage.
"This is a great success. One of the biggest channels of animal part contraband ever has been shut down. Alas, we cannot disclose every detail of the operation of the Far Eastern Operative Customs' officers because the investigation is still in progress, but I am sure that a film will be made on the basis of this true story at some point," the statement quoted Amur Tiger Center Director Sergei Aramilev as saying.
The derivates included parts of at least four tigers, including two killed recently, Aramilev said.
"The various degrees of freshness and external features of animal parts prove that they were purchased across the Far East over a long period of time. According to the preliminary estimates, the population has lost at least four Amur tigers. Two tigers died over three years ago, and two just recently, including one this winter," Aramilev said.
A criminal inquiry is pending.
Smugglers have been caught on the shore of the Khanka Lake before: they planned to cross the lake in the summertime of 2008, he said, adding that those smugglers were carrying 480 bear paws and Amur tiger parts. Six smugglers from China and Russia were given a total of 49 years in jail.