Sunday, July 10, 2011
A Thai national was recently arrested by a joint operation conducted by the South African Revenue Service (SARS), the Hawks, and forensic investigator Paul O'Sullivan. The 43-year-old, believed to be a kingpin in the illegal trade of rhino horns, was arrested at a house east of Johannesburg in the town of Edenvale. He was previously searched by SARS officials at the OR Tambo International Airport upon his arrival on June 13. SARS spokesman Anton Fisher stated that the officials uncovered various documents, including an order for fifty sets of rhino horns, a computer, and a cellphone. He further added that the suspect allegedly used rhino-hunting permits under false pretenses. That is, such permits issued under CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species) are for trophy hunting and not for the illegal trade. It is thought that once a rhino has been killed on a supposed hunting trip, its horn would be sent overseas by the suspect who pays an average of 65,000 rands per kilogram. Fisher also stated that an extensive investigation by SARS following the suspect's arrest led to his activities and a trading company based in Laos. A similar arrest was made yesterday following a successful prosecution of another Thai national named Punipak Chunchom, who was charged with the illegal possession of lion teeth and claws. Both he and this man worked for the same company.
Although I'm satisfied by the arrest of this national, this news article highlighted a key piece of evidence behind trophy hunting in Africa. That is, once the clients have successfully killed an animal of their choice, they would secretly export the body parts of that animal overseas to such import/export companies. In this case, the animal has been a rhino. However, other animals like lions also become victims of such secretive and illicit activities functioning within what may be a tool for conservation. Although I'm not an advocate in hunting, I feel that trophy hunting businesses should be closely monitored regarding the illegal trade of wild animals sought as big game. This method should especially be used in South Africa, which has lost a great deal of its rhinos to powerful criminal syndicates using sophisticated technology in exploiting the land and its wildlife.
View article here