|Hamzah Sundang (2nd right), customs director of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, posing with recently seized rhino horns during a news conference.|
Authorities in Malaysia have recently seized about $3.1 million worth of rhino horns that were being transported from Mozambique via Qatar, marking Asia's latest seizure of products from endangered species to feed the insatiable demand for traditional medicine. Malaysia is known to be a major transport point for the trade in endangered species to other countries of Asia, even though a customs official indicated that the country was thought to have been the final destination of all eighteen rhino horns. According to Hamzah Sundang, customs director at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, officials found more than 112 lb of horns, following a tip-off, sealed in wooden crates inside a cargo warehouse. He indicated during a news conference that the horns had been transported to Malaysia via Doha, Qatar, on a Qatar Airways flight, using fraudulent documents and claimed as "Obra de arte" (objects of art). He further added that the investigations are still going and no suspects have been arrested. The office of Qatar Airways did not right away respond to a request for comment.
Incidences of the global trade in rhino horns and elephant ivory have been making international headlines lately. Usually, such incidences comprise of seizures being made of these illicit products which continue to be of high demand in Asia. For example, in January this year, 1,860 lb. of ivory tusks were seized in Malaysia. Last month, nearly $5 million worth of rhino horns were confiscated in Thailand, marking the country's largest seizure in years. Despite strict laws in banning of trade in ivory and rhino horns, especially in China, the demand continues to grow and it is being driven by international criminal syndicates that operate in secrecy. It is highly essential to crack down hard on these shadowy organizations, which monopolize in other forms of vice such as trafficking of drugs, weapons, and humans. At the same time, Southeast Asia should also take major steps in combating poaching and trade of its native wildlife. Just recently, Cambodia declared its tiger population as "functionally extinct." This shows how the poachers and other perpetrators of the illegal wildlife trade virtually operate with impunity.
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