The South African Police Services has arrested two individuals believed to be involved in a rhino horns sting operation to Asia.
On Sunday, 14 April 2019, the South African Police Service (SAPS) said they had arrested two suspects in the North West province, who are believed to be a part of a sting operation transporting rhino horns to Asia. The two were arrested on Saturday, 13 April 2019, following a tip-off that a car was transporting rhino horns. The police nabbed the suspects and discovered 167 rhino horns.
Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said this was one of the biggest rhino horn haul in the country.
“We arrested them on Saturday in the Hartbeespoort dam area. They were driving in a vehicle and they were intercepted.
“It was an intelligence-driven operation that led to the arrest of the two. They were found in possession of those 167 rhino horns,” he said, adding “it is one of biggest (hauls).”
Police said the rhino horns, worth a “substantial amount of money”, were destined for the Southeast Asian markets. In China and Vietnam, the Rhino horn is advertised by some traditional medicine practitioners as a wonder ingredient, when in fact, the horn is a nostrum comprised of mostly keratin, the same protein found in human hair and finger nails. This has, however, not decreased the demand for the horn.
The driving factor for rhino horn poachers is the price tag attached to the horn. The business is a lucrative one, earning a poacher up to 60 000 dollars per kilogram in Asia. This has created a transnational crime network that has decimated rhino populations in recent decades.
South Africa, which is home to about 80 percent of the world rhino population, has been hit the hardest. In 2018, 769 rhinos were poached in South Africa alone. More than 7 100 animals have been killed over the past decade.
The suspects, aged 57 and 61, are expected to appear in the Brits Town Magistrate’s court on Monday, 15 April 2019.