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Ivory seized in £3.4m port haul

Customs officials in Hong Kong have seized a shipment of illegal ivory, rhino horns and leopard skins worth £3.4 million.

It is Hong Kong's second big bust of endangered species products in a month and the latest in a string of seizures over the past year.

A government statement said 1,120 ivory tusks, 13 rhino horns and five pieces of leopard skin were confiscated at Hong Kong's port.

The 2.2-tonne haul was found hidden in a container declared as wood from Nigeria.

Last month, more than two tonnes of elephant tusks worth an estimated £1.46 million were confiscated by customs officials, who said it was the city's biggest ivory seizure since 2010.

Wildlife activists say China's growing presence in Africa is to blame for an unprecedented surge in poaching of elephants for their tusks, most of which are believed to be smuggled into China and Thailand to make ivory ornaments.

According to CITES, the international body that monitors endangered species, the illegal trade in ivory has more than doubled since 2007.

Ivory can fetch up to £590 per pound on the black market and more than £32,000 for an entire tusk.

Demand for rhino horn is driven by the belief in Asia that ground-up horn cures diseases, which is not supported by medical evidence. Rhino horn is made of keratin, a tough protein found in human fingernails.

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