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SOS Rhino : In the News : Australia nets illegal tiger and rhino parts in raids

Australia nets illegal tiger and rhino parts in raids

  Tuesday, June 22, 2004
By Reuters
Environmental News Network

CANBERRA „ Australian officials netted a huge haul of bear bile, tiger bone, rhinoceros horn, and other endangered wildlife products recently in a crackdown on illegal imports used in traditional Chinese-style medicine.

It was the second day in a row that Australian police announced the seizure of large amounts of illegal imports of animal parts or remains worth millions of dollars on the black market.

In the latest case, Australian Environment Minister David Kemp said large quantities of parts from endangered animals were seized in raids by police and quarantine officers on five medicine outlets in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Kemp said the raids followed an operation triggered by report from the World Society for the Protection of Animals into the illegal bear bile trade in Australia. The report prompted surveillance of a number of outlets for several months.

"The market value of these products is currently being assessed, but it will have a dramatic impact on the illegal complementary medicines trade," Kemp said in a statement.

Traditional Chinese-style medicine has grown into a billion-dollar international industry, spurring a lucrative black market in endangered species and rare plants that is pushing some vulnerable animal populations to the brink of extinction.

Many of these imports are prohibited under wildlife trade and protection laws in Australia, where the alternative health market is now worth A$1.5 billion (US$1 billion) a year.

Bear bile is used in traditional Chinese medicines. It is thought to improve stomach and liver function, but bears are killed or kept in captivity on farms to be "milked" for the liquid.

Customs Minister Chris Ellison said in the past five years the government had seized more than 29,000 illegal wildlife products. Mostly of the items were small and brought in by travelers for personal use.

No one has been arrested after Friday's raids, but Ellison said authorities expect to lay charges under Australia's Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act following the raids. If found guilty, offenders face a maximum fine of A$110,000 (US$75,000) and/or 10 years in jail.

The raids came a day after police said they had seized about 1,300 fossils and dinosaur eggs, which are up to 150 million years old and believed to be from China. The 20-ton haul was netted last week during raids on two shops and another property at Mandurah, 70 kms (44 miles) south of Perth, on Australia's west coast.

Source: Reuters

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