HONG KONG - Hong Kong customs officials have seized $2 million-worth of scales from the endangered pangolin, or "scaly anteater", authorities said Tuesday, in their biggest such haul in five years.
Officials intercepted two shipments bound for Southeast Asia containing three tonnes of pangolin scales from Africa around the end of last month, amid a rise in illegal smuggling of the species.
Pangolin scales are prized as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine while the rare anteater's tough, scaly skin is also used in fashion accessories in Asia.
Prices on the black market have surged in recent months as illegal trade has boomed, partly to meet growing demand from mainland China, according to activists.
"The seizure was the largest in five years for Hong Kong," a customs spokeswoman told AFP, adding that the raids uncovered 3,300 kilos (8,160 pounds) of the scales, worth about HK$17 million (USD$2.19 million).
"Customs officers selected a shipment arriving from Kenya for inspection and found about 1,000 kilos of pangolin scales. With subsequent intelligence gathered... customs officers found about 2,340 kilos of pangolin scales," a customs statement said.
One man has been arrested in connection with the haul.