Authorities in Russia's Far East say they have detained several people on suspicion of smuggling parts of endangered Siberian tigers, brown bears, and other animals.
Customs officers who searched two minibuses and an SUV that tried to illegally cross a frozen lake separating Russia from China found 870 brown-bear paws, the bones and skins of four Siberian tigers, the Amursky Tigr (Amur Tiger) Center said on January 29.
Also discovered in the vehicles and confiscated were parts of frogs, Manchurian wapitis, and sika deer, the conservation center in the Primorsky Krai region said.
The center's director, Sergei Aramilev, said that "one of the largest routes of illegal transportation of endangered animal parts to China" had been uncovered.
The statement comes 11 days after officials in Zabaikalye, another region that borders China, said that 27 bear paws were found on a freight train headed for China.
Parts of bears, Siberian tigers, and other rare animals are prized in China for their perceived medicinal value, but their sale is illegal as they are officially protected species both in China and Russia.
Based on reporting by RIA Novosti and Interfax