The Chinese Were Caught Smuggling Elk Lips, Bear Paws, and Woolly Mammoth Tusks

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Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Russian customs agents seized an astounding 1,041 bear paws, along with 26 elk lips, five woolly mammoth tusks, and lynx fur coming from China in the Russian border town of Blagoveshchensk. Officials discovered the strange array of artifacts in a secret compartment in a seemingly empty semi-truck. "China is a vacuum cleaner for Siberian wildlife,” said Aleksei L. Vaisman, a senior coordinator for Traffic Europe-Russia, which monitors trade in wild animals. Okay, so what about the tusks? Apparently there's a wealth of tusks buried deep in a layer of Siberia's permafrost — around 150 million or so are encased in the ice — and so are kind of not really a big deal. The bear paws, say officials, were most likely collected from hunters at around $50 for a set of four. And elk lips? They're a delicious delicacy, duh.

Russia Seizes a Ton of Animal Parts Smuggled From China [NYT]