Hong Kong becomes major outlet for trade in rare species

Hong Kong has become a linchpin location for smuggling rare species into China, according to some opponents of the trade, who fear that huge demand may wipe out many animal and plant species. In just one notable raid, police discovered that numerous boxes of alleged frozen chicken wings were actually filled with some 2,000 pangolins — a rare species of anteater prohibited from trade by international treaty — that had been killed, descaled, frozen, and vacuum-packed on their way to restaurants in southern China. Activists and officials say that Hong Kong’s status as a free-trade port and proximity to China — where many rare animals are prized for their alleged medicinal or aphrodisiacal qualities — make it an ideal way station for meeting the massive demand in black-market species. And China’s rising economic tide means more folks have more money to spend on their fix of endangered critters or protected plants.