A total of 173 bear paws were found in a van carrying waste paper in South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, an official with the region's Public Security Bureau said Monday.
The counter-narcotics officers with the bureau held up a red van from the neighboring Yunnan Province at the highway toll station of Fangchenggang, a city on the border of China and Vietnam on Sunday afternoon. Instead of discovering any drugs in it, which they suspected, they found eight boxes hidden in the waste paper, containing 173 bear paws with a total weight of 384.5kilograms, said the official who preferred to be unnamed.
Also stuffed in the waste paper were four pieces of python skin, the longest of which stretched out over five meters, and a dead pangolin.
Three men in the van have been detained, including two drivers and a guide. The police also detained a local paper factory owner who would have bought the waste paper. The four men all claimed that they did not know about the hidden items.
The bear paws, with blood stains on their fractures, were wrapped in paper with foreign characters. The police are identifying the characters and further investigating the case.
Bear paws are a much-sought-after ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine. They are also regarded as a rare delicacy. They are believed to be connected with stomach health, to be able to cure injuries, dispel colds and build strength.