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Thailand seizes rhino horns in random luggage check

Thai authorities have discovered nearly 50 kilos (110 pounds) of smuggled rhino horn while searching luggage from Ethiopia at Bangkok's main airport. The substance is worth more than gold on the black market.

The shipment discovered was worth around $5 million (4.7 million euros), officials said on Tuesday. A total of 21 horns were found during the search, and experts who examined them believe that the animals were killed before having the horns cut off.

"It's the biggest confiscation of rhino horns in 5 to 10 years," said Somkiat Soontornpitakkool, director of Thailand's Wild Fauna and Flora Protection division.

While the size and weight vary by species, a rhino horn can weigh over three kilos. The horns discovered in Bangkok were unusually large and pristine, experts said.

Officials found the smuggled goods while randomly checking luggage at the country's largest airport. The two Thai women, allegedly owners of the bags, ran away when approached by the customs officers. The authorities issued a warrant for their arrest.

Poachers reach Paris

Powdered rhino horn is a sought-after remedy in Chinese medicine and is worth more than gold of equivalent weight. While it has no health benefits, traditional healers sell it as cure for many ailments, from cancer to erectile dysfunction.

Illegal poaching has driven down numbers of rhinos worldwide. Last week, unknown suspects broke into a small zoo near Paris and killed a white rhino for its horn. Experts believe that some 29,000 of these animals remain in the wild, compared to half a million over a century ago, according to the International Rhino Foundation.

Several days ago, Thailand arrested a Gambian who allegedly tried to smuggle 300 kilos of illegal ivory. 

Watch video 01:36

Thai customs officials sieze illegal African ivory

dj/rt (Reuters, AP)

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