Confiscated rhino horn at OR Tambo 'not linked to online auction'

2017-09-13 15:22 - Kavitha Pillay
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Cape Town - South African Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, confirms that the five rhino horn confiscated at OR Tambo International Airport on Friday, 8 September, are not linked to the recent online auction of rhino horn.

The minister dispelled speculation that the rhino horn confiscated were linked to the online auction saying, “The online auction was closely monitored by an Environmental Management Inspector from the Department and horns that were approved for sale during the auction are currently still in the possession of Mr [John] Hume."

She emphasised that as part of the criminal investigation into the arrest "the horns have been sent for DNA testing in order to determine their origin.”

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Molewa welcomed the arrest of the Chinese national who was caught smuggling the rhino horn at OR Tambo International Airport on Friday, as well as the recent sentencing of a poacher to 20 years imprisonment.

“It is encouraging that security and customs and excise officials working in collaboration with the Green Scorpions and the Hawks, have recorded a number of successful arrests of alleged rhino horn smugglers at OR Tambo International Airport in recent months,” says Molewa.

The Chinese national, en route to Hong Kong, was arrested after the five rhino horn wrapped in foil were discovered in his luggage. The horns were handed to the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (Hawks) for further investigation.

“The arrest and confiscation of the horns is yet another example of the success of the Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros Approach being implemented by government to combat rhino poaching and related crimes in South Africa,”  adds Molewa.

20-year imprisonment sentence and successful arrests

A 20-year imprisonment sentence has been handed down by the Skukuza Regional Court to poacher Mapoyisa Mahlauli, a Mozambican national who was found in possession of a firearm and two rhino horn when he was arrested in the Kruger National Park last year.

"The sentence sends a strong message to would-be poachers that they face the full might of the law should they intend poaching rhino," says Molewa.

ALSO SEE: 7th key rhino horn bust in SA for 2017 as Zim woman nabbed at OR Tambo

Other recent successes recorded at OR Tambo Airport include a Chinese woman being arrested for the alleged smuggling of 11 rhino horn while in transit from Zambia to Hong Kong in July, and the arrest of a Zimbabwean woman in August, for attempting to smuggle two rhino horn with electronic items in her suitcase to Hong Kong.

Permits and non-compliance

In terms of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act and the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a permit is required to possess or transport rhino horn.

The Department of Environmental Affairs says that non-compliance with the NEMBA permit requirement is a criminal offence in which a person convicted of the crime is liable to:

  • a fine not exceeding R10 million, or a fine equal to three times the commercial value of the rhinoceros horn in respect of which the offence was committed, whichever is the greater;
  • an imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years;
  • both such a fine and such imprisonment.

SEE: Wildlife Act responds to John Hume ahead of delayed online rhino horn auction

Despite the regulations in place to combat illegal trade of rhino horn, many members of the public and conservation groups remain against rhino horn trade and the online auction. However, plans for a second online rhino horn auction is already underway, with the Private Rhino Owners’ Association having indicated that the next rhino horn auction could take place within 2 to 3 months.

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