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Cross border haul of Illegal bear and tiger parts seized in Russian Far East

Customs and the Frontier Service in the Primorskii province in the Russian Far East have seized a massive cache of illegal wildlife products bound for China.

The latest seizure includes 480 paws from brown and black bear and a Siberian tiger pelt and bones.

This is the fourth seizure of Siberian tiger parts this year.

In January 2007, law enforcement officials seized 360 kg of bear paws, three Siberian tiger skins and bones, and 531 saiga horns.

In February, Khanka frontier guards confiscated 130 bear paws.

In July, Vladivostok custom officials found hidden tiger bones while checking and processing official papers of a Chinese national when leaving.

Practically all the seized wildlife products except for saiga horns come exclusively from the Russian Far East.

"These kinds of incidents underscore the fact that along with creating protected areas and changing policy it is also critical to make sure that strict boarder controls are in place and that demand is curtailed," said Darron Collins, Ph. D., Managing Director of WWF's Amur-Heilong program. "With good conservation measures in place at each level we can make sure that we are not left with well protected but empty forests."

"WWF continues to provide information and technical support to the Custom and Frontier Service to help suppress this illegal and growing trade across the Russian border," said Pavel Fomenko, Amur branch, WWF-Russia.

He added that WWF specialists often help identify seized wildlife products.

"It is essential that the Khanka Lake section of the border be controlled, as we now know it is a vital conduit for illegal wildlife trade," said Fomenko.

WWF says Russian Custom and Frontier Service authorities should ensure better control through the so called "Khanka hole".

The Khanka Lake section of the Russia/China border is considered to be one of the most complicated and important thoroughfares between the two countries.

Legal proceedings have been instigated against the Chinese and Russian nationals involved in the latest smuggling case involving the bear paws.

For more information, contact Sarah Janicke at