In this week’s Round Up: Significant arrests have been made in South Africa and Nepal, while an unspeakable tragedy strikes Kenya.
Meanwhile, the rhino horn robberies continue in Europe – and the notorious (alleged) ringleader of a South African rhino horn syndicate has reared his ugly head.
Celebrity rhino ‘Max’ murdered
In a horrifying act of brutality, the tame celebrity rhino “Max” was murdered at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.
His killers filled him with 17 bullets and hacked out his horns.
Max was an orphaned rhino and had been hand-raised since the age of two weeks. He was featured on the BBC’s “Last Chance to See” program.
More museum heists
Antique rhino horn heists continue to sweep across Europe and the UK at an alarming rate.
The natural history museum in Blois, France, was hit over the weekend. Thieves broke in and hauled off the 200-pound (100 kilograms) rhino head exhibit.
Just days before, three antique rhino trophies were stolen during a nightly tour of a Czech castle.
There have been at least 20 rhino horn thefts across Europe and the UK during the past six months. The crime wave prompted Europol to issue a warning last week about the involvement of Irish gangs in these rhino horn robberies.
Groenewald back in business
It would appear that “suspected” rhino horn dealer Dawie Groenewald has been given the green light to start slaughtering rhinos again.
Groenewald is the South African game farmer and safari outfitter who was arrested in September 2010 for (allegedly) killing rhinos and dealing in rhino horn.
Shortly after his arrest, 20 de-horned rhinos were found in a mass grave on his property.
This week, not only was the leader of South Africa’s “Groenewald gang” granted a contract to purchase nine rhinos, it was revealed that he had been issued a hunting permit to kill dozens more.
(For more about the “pseudo-hunts”, see Mules Hunting Rhinos? Sinister Scam Unfolds in South Africa.)
Groenewald with rhinos again? What next – pedophiles teaching preschool?
Thai rhino horn trader busted
South Africa’s elite Hawks arrested Chumlong Lemtongthai, a Thai national who had been using legal trophy hunts as a cover for acquiring rhino horn, which he sent abroad for illegal use in traditional Chinese medicine.
Lemtongthai arrived in South Africa about a month ago carrying an “order for 50 sets of rhino horn”.
Apparently, Lemongthai had been arranging rhino hunting expeditions for the purpose of buying the horns from the hunters.
Five Thai “hunters” were also arrested.
Lemongthai’s “hunting party” is believed to have already killed five rhinos in the North West Province.
However, the identity of the South African trophy hunt outfitters who aided Lemongthai’s scam has not yet been revealed.
Note: The heinous crimes perpetrated by Lemongthai and Groenewald would not have been possible without South Africa’s legal trade laws, which allow for trade in live rhinos and trophy hunt exports. To find out more about how rhino horn syndicates abuse these trade loopholes, check out Concern Grows Around South Africa’s Legal Trade in Live Rhinos.
Seven (!) rhino horn smugglers were busted in Nepal’s capital city by the Central Investigation Bureau.
The gang was identified as Dipak Bahadur Hamal, Dil Bahadur, Lor Bahadur Gurung, Bhim Bahadur Bishwokarma, Ramesh Hamal, Dinesh Adhikari (“Chari”), and Narayan Shrestha.
Two of the suspects, Dinesh Adhikari (“Chari”) and Dipak Bahadur Hamal, are believed to have political ties.
What you can do
Help raise awareness about the rhino crisis. You can take the first step by sharing this article – and asking others to do the same.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
Learn more about the rhino crisis:
- Rhino Crisis Round Up: 200 Rhinos Slaughtered in South Africa, Irish Gangs (& More)
- Mules Hunting Rhinos? Sinister Scam Unfolds in South Africa
- Busting the Rhino Horn Medicine Myth with Science
Image #1 & #3 © iStockphoto.com; image #2 © Saving Rhinos LLC; #4 Wikimedia Commons
Rhishja is the founder of Annamiticus, a nonprofit organization which provides educational information and news about wildlife crime and endangered species. She is the Editor of the blogs Annamiticus, Rhino Horn is Not Medicine, and Project Pangolin, a Producer for the upcoming documentary "The Price", author of the book "Murder, Myths & Medicine", and host of the "Behind the Schemes" podcast. When Rhishja is not blogging about the illegal wildlife trade, she enjoys rocking out to live music.