Malaysia seized rhino horn worth nearly $12 million bound for Vietnam, in its largest haul of such contraband, officials said.
Wildlife experts say Malaysia is a major transit point for illegal trafficking of endangered species to other Asian countries.
Officials acting on a tip-off seized 50 horns, weighing about 116 kg, at the cargo terminal of Kuala Lumpur airport, a wildlife official said in a statement.
The shipment included nine carcasses of what are believed to be tigers and bears, weighing about 200 kg.
“All the wildlife items confiscated were to be exported without a proper permit,” Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim, director-general of the Wildlife and National Parks Department, said in the statement.
The department will run DNA tests to identify each wildlife species involved, he added.
The shipment, valued at 48 million ringgit ($11.7 million), was bound for Hanoi, capital of Vietnam.
Investigations showed the consignment was shipped with false documents, and efforts were being made to identify its true owner, Abdul Kadir said.
TRAFFIC, a group which monitors the illegal wildlife trade, said the case highlighted links between Malaysia and Vietnam, both in south-east Asia.
“This was an unusual mix of wildlife parts — rhino horn clearly not from Asia and carnivore carcasses which could have originated from the country,” TRAFFIC acting South-east Asia director Kanitha Krishnasamy said in a statement.
“This discovery raises questions about criminals accumulating wildlife parts using a multitude of routes and methods to traffic them onwards to destination countries.”
Global trade in rhino horn is banned by a United Nations convention, but it is prized in some Asian countries as an ingredient in traditional medicines to treat everything from fever to cancer.
Last year, Malaysia seized about $3.1 million worth of rhino horn flown in from Mozambique via Qatar.
Separately, authorities arrested a man on July for illegal possession of three baby Sumatran orangutans, Abdul Kadir said.
“The suspect was believed to be trading wildlife online and was arrested while dealing with a buyer,” he said.
Malaysia will return the animals to Indonesia, he said.
Orangutans live in lowland forests on Borneo, an island shared by Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as on Indonesia’s island Sumatra.
They are endangered, with populations declining due to deforestation and hunting.