Customs officials in southern Thailand made a rare seizure Friday of more than 2,500 dried sea horses, an ingredient of Chinese traditional medicines.
The officials, who had followed a passenger van from the Malaysian border, stopped the vehicle and found the dried sea horses wrapped in newspapers, said Tanat Suvattanametakul, director of the Customs Division's Investigation Bureau.
There were no arrests since the bundles had been loaded as cargo and no passenger was accompanying them, he said. The seizure was made near the southern city of Songkhla, and the confiscated sea horses were displayed at a news conference in Bangkok.
Some people believe sea horses are an aphrodisiac and can treat a range of ailments.
A 2004 report by the wildlife group TRAFFIC estimated that, globally, 24 million sea horses are taken from the wild each year for use in Chinese medicines and that some species are under serious threat as a result. International trade in sea horses is illegal under the CITES wildlife protection convention, to which Thailand is a party.
Seizures of sea horses are rare since the trade in them is not large-scale because they are added into medicines only in very small quantities, Tanat said.