More than four kilograms of rhinoceros horn was taken from a Chinese passenger at Cambodia’s Phnom Penh International Airport last week. Eight pieces of rhinoceros horn, weighing 4.38 kilograms, were found in the luggage of Weng Zhiyong, 31, who was traveling from Namibia. He arrived in Cambodia via Doha, Qatar.
“We decided to check the target after we learned what country he’d been traveling from,” said Leang Hay, Chief of Customs at the airport. “Previously, we’ve arrested people—mostly Chinese and Vietnamese—carrying rhinoceros horns.”
Hay said it was the fifth major seizure of rhinoceros horn at a Cambodian airport since 2012.
The rhinoceros horns were estimated to be worth between $400,000 and $800,000 in China, where they are used for “medicinal” purposes and flaunted as a status symbol, said Thomas Gray, Science Director for Wildlife Alliance, an anti-trafficking NGO.
“Our current understanding of the black market is that the horn goes for $100,000 to $200,000 a kilogram,” said Gray.
Although trafficking endangered animal parts is illegal in China, the demand for these products persists. Last November, 11 kilograms of rhinoceros horn was seized by Beijing police as part of a three month investigation that also netted 800 kilograms of ivory and 35 bear paws.
The demand for endangered animal parts reached such a fever pitch that China’s ambassador to Tanzania, Lu Youqing, blasted his own countrymen in an epic rant, admitting that, “They [Chinese] don’t have even a single bit of awareness of the law.”