Two men have been arrested after police found about 1,000 wild animals – many of them endangered – in a house and a hut in the New Territories.
Police officers, along with officers from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) and staff from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, conducted a raid on a sheet metal hut and a three-storey house in Pat Heung on Tuesday morning.
Officers found several species of animals at both sites, including giant salamanders, turtles, slow lorises, otters, leopard cats, and several species of owl. Over 70 snakes, including a python, were also found.
A large fish tank containing 10 different species of fish was also discovered; with the largest of the fishes being about 1.2 metres long.
Police arrested a 47-year-old man and a 27-year-old man on suspicion of possessing endangered species and breaching the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance. The two men are being detained for further investigation.
A source close to the investigation said no laws appeared to have been broken in terms of the health and living conditions of the animals.
All the animals found were seized and are now being handled by the AFCD and other relevant agencies.
Michael Lau, director of Wetlands Conservation at WWF HK, told Young Post that a large number of the animals may have been illegally imported from the mainland, and other South East Asian countries – although some of the species can be found locally in Hong Kong as well.
“We found a number of them to be [from] threatened species,” Lau said. “This will have an impact on the survival of the population in the wild.
“If you remove certain species from their [natural] environment, this affects the ecology, because some animals play an important role in maintaining the ecology of a place.”
Lau said that, although no dead animals were found during the raid, this does not mean the welfare of the animals is not a cause for concern. “Wild animals are used to roaming about freely. In captivity, they are kept in small cages and tanks, which can hurt them.”
Under Hong Kong law, the possession of any endangered species requires a license issued by the AFCD. The maximum penalty for violating the licensing requirements is a fine of HK$5 million and two years imprisonment.