HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong seized HK$26.7 million ($3.5 million) of ivory tusks and ornaments smuggled from Africa, authorities said, the territory's largest ever seizure of illicit ivory that is still widely sought despite an international ban.
Customs officers in Hong Kong and neighboring Guangdong confiscated the ivory, weighing a total of 3.8 metric tons, in raids at a container port last week, the Hong Kong government said.
"It is the biggest ever in Hong Kong in the number of tusks seized in a single seizure," a government spokesman said.
Customs officers found 972 tusks and the ornaments in bags of plastic scraps inside a container that arrived from Tanzania on Tuesday, the government said. Another 237 tusks were found the next day in a container carrying beans from Kenya.
Customs officials quoted by Hong Kong media said they did not think much of the ivory had been destined for the Chinese mainland.
"We believe a small portion would have gone to the mainland and the rest elsewhere in the region, such as Japan and Taiwan," the South China Morning Post quoted senior Hong Kong customs official Lam Tak-fai as saying.
Hong Kong was a major importer, trader and manufacturer of ivory carvings, crafts and other products before the international trade in ivory was banned in 1990.
($1 = 7.7502 Hong Kong dollars)
(Reporting by Donny Kwok; Editing by Paul Tait)