Elephant ivory weighing 8.8 tonnes has been seized in Singapore, with authorities saying the haul is the biggest ever in the city-state’s history.
The elephant tusks were discovered in a Vietnam-bound container from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Also in the illegal cargo were scales from the giant pangolin.
This is the third major seizure of pangolin scales in Singapore in 2019. Altogether, the haul was valued at $48.6m (£39.1m).
The haul of ivory came from an estimated 300 elephants, with almost 2,000 giant pangolins believed to have been killed for the 11.9 tonnes of scales found in the raid.
The haul falls just short of the 9.1 tonnes of ivory seized in Vietnam back in March, which the Environmental Investigation Agency said was the largest ever haul in the world.
“The seized pangolin scales and elephant ivory will be destroyed to prevent them from re-entering the market,” the Singapore Customs, Immigration and Checkpoints Authority and the National Parks Board confirmed.
Authorities in Singapore said China’s General Administration of Customs had shared the information about the illegal haul.
“The Singapore government adopts a zero-tolerance stance on the use of Singapore as a conduit to smuggle endangered species and their parts and derivatives,” they told local media.
“Our agencies will continue to collaborate and maintain vigilance to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.”
A flurry of seizures of illegal animal products, including rhino horns, have taken place across East Asia in recent months, including in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Vietnam.
Singapore is a part of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which banned the trade of ivory globally in 1989.
Even so, the charity Save The Elephants estimates that 100,000 elephants were killed for their ivory between 2010 and 2012 alone.
The pangolin, meanwhile, is the world’s most trafficked mammal and is critically endangered.
The meat of the pangolin is considered a delicacy in some countries, while others believe their scales are able to cure diseases.
However, this has never been proven. The scales of the pangolin are made of keratin, the same material that the human body uses to make hair and fingernails.
Elephant ivory is coveted as it can be made into items such as jewellery and ornaments. The tusks are also occasionally used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Under law in Singapore, the penalty for the illegal import, export and re-export of wildlife is a fine of up to $500,000 SGD (£295,000). Those found guilty also can face two years in prison.
Microplastics that can be absorbed into the body found in UK tap water | Science & Tech News
The World Health Organisation has called for urgent research on the risks of microplastic to human health after confirming that tiny fragments are found in drinking water.
In its first assessment of plastic pollution the WHO concluded that there was evidence from 50 studies that microscopic particles are found in water and could be absorbed by the human body.
Professor Peter Jarvis of Cranfield University, one of the report’s authors, told Sky News that tap water in the UK contains between zero and 10 microplastic pieces in every litre.
But bottled water can contain “a few hundred”.
“Where there is opportunity for water to interact with plastic material there is opportunity for plastic to go into the water source,” he said.
“There are higher risks of exposure to plastics from bottled water than tap water. The evidence points to the cap itself as the main contributor to plastics in the water.”
The WHO report says particles too small to be seen with the naked eye are likely to be absorbed by the human body but “firm conclusions” on the risk “cannot yet be determined”.
Dr Maria Neira, a public health and environment specialist at the WHO, said: “We urgently need to know more about the health impact of microplastics because they are everywhere, including our drinking water.”
Studies have also found microplastics in seafood, soil, Arctic ice and the air.
They are produced by wear and tear from plastic products such as polyurethane varnish, car tyres and wet wipes. A polyester jumper can shed 700 plastic fibres in every wash.
The WHO called for a crackdown on plastic pollution to reduce human exposure and the risk to the environment.
That was echoed by Imogen Napper, a microplastic scientist and Sky Ocean Rescue Scholar.
“How do you remove something that small from the environment?
“We live in the plastic age and there are benefits, but we need to reign in plastic use.
“We don’t need items like bananas wrapped in plastic when they already have a protective layer.”
Sky’s Ocean Rescue campaign encourages people to reduce their single-use plastics. You can find out more about the campaign and how to get involved at www.skyoceanrescue.com
Pangu Plaza: Seized Beijing skyscraper snapped up for £605m in online auction | UK News
A Beijing skyscraper confiscated from a fugitive Chinese billionaire has been sold in an online auction for 5.18 billion yuan (£605m).
The 40-story Pangu Plaza, estimated to be worth over £824m, had only been on sale for 24 hours when it was snapped up on the auction site of Chinese internet giant Alibaba.
The buyer was a Beijng-based property development and management company called YuCheng Zhiye, according to the auction site.
More than 145,000 internet users followed the auction however only two bids were cast, with the winner purchasing the spectacular building for little more than its reserve price.
The multiple complex building overlooks the busy Olympic District of Beijing and neighbours many of the 2008 Beijing Olympic venues, including the Bird’s Nest stadium.
It was put on sale by creditors after being seized from billionaire Guo Wengui in 2016.
Guo, a businessman-turned-political activist, fell out with members of the Communist Party leadership and is accused of corruption and other misdeeds.
He was forced to flee China and went to the US in late 2014 after learning he was going to be arrested after allegations against him including bribing, kidnapping, money laundering, fraud and rape.
He is now based in New York and is an outspoken critic of China’s communist regime and President Xi Jinping.
On Wednesday, he uploaded a video to YouTube claiming the winning bid was only 10% of the Pangu Plaza’s estimated value.
The property’s other buildings, including offices and the luxury Pangu 7 Star Hotel, were not included in the auction.
Vladimir Putin warns US over missile test: ‘We will react accordingly’ | World News
Russia’s Vladimir Putin has said America’s latest missile test has raised new threats and will warrant a response from Moscow.
The missile test on Sunday would have been banned under a now-defunct arms treaty.
The Pentagon confirmed it tested a modified ground-launched version of a Navy Tomahawk cruise missile, which hit its target more than 310 miles (499km) away.
It follows the pull-out of both Washington and Moscow from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which prohibited the use of such weapons.
The Russian president spoke after talks with Finnish leader Sauli Niinisto on Wednesday.
Mr Putin argued that the quick test indicated that America had begun working on the missile long before declaring its intention to abandon the pact.
The Russian leader said the test signalled “the emergence of new threats, to which we will react accordingly”.
“The Americans have tested this missile too quickly after having withdrawn from the treaty,” Mr Putin said.
“That gives us strong reason to believe that they had started work to adapt the sea-launched missile long before they began looking for excuses to opt out of the treaty.”
The US said it withdrew from the treaty following Russian violations, which Moscow denies.
Mr Putin said his country would work to create similar missiles but reaffirmed that it would not deploy missiles previously banned by the treaty to any area before the US does.
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