Animals

Published on July 24th, 2011 | by Rhishja Cota-Larson

9

Thai Prostitutes Hired to Kill Rhinos in South African Trophy Hunting Scam

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July 24th, 2011 by

Yet another unsavory connection between South Africa’s trophy hunting of rhinos and the illegal rhino horn trade: Recent investigations have revealed that Thai prostitutes were brought into the country by a known human trafficker for the purpose of “hunting” rhinos.

This development is linked to the recent arrest of Chumlong Lemtongthai, a Thai national suspected of laundering rhino horn for the illegal market with South African trophy hunting permits.

Hunting safari operator Marnus Steyl is believed to be Lemtongthai’s South African link to an international wildlife trafficking syndicate, which operates under the cover of a Cambodia-based company known as Xaysavang Export Import.

An extensive investigation by South Africa’s Media24 uncovered a mountain of evidence indicating that Steyl worked directly with Xaysavang Export Import to supply rhino horns and lion bones (used as a substitute for tiger), for use in illegal Chinese medicines.

On November 16, Xaysavang was invoiced a total R1.3m by Steyl Game for 22kg of rhino horn. A month later, an amount of R434 000 was invoiced for “3 rhino”.

To acquire rhino horn “legally” for the illegal market, female “sex workers” from Thailand were brought into South Africa to pose as “rhino hunters” on Steyl’s property.

According to the Mail & Guardian, a woman wanted in Thailand for human trafficking – now living in Midrand, Gauteng Province – was supplying these young women for the Steyl-Lemtongthai scam.

It was also reported that suspected rhino horn syndicate “kingpin” Dawie Groenewald is connected to Lemtongthai.

Groenewald is currently facing charges of assault, fraud, corruption, malicious damage to property, illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, and contravention of the National Environmental Biodiversity Act.

Suspect Groenewald recently sold nine rhinos to a South African game rancher, who is already tied to a professional hunter, arrested twice for involvement with similar trophy hunting scams.

Both Steyl and Groenewald have reportedly denied any connection to Lemtongthai.

Learn more about the rhino crisis:

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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About the Author

Rhishja is the founder of Annamiticus, a nonprofit organization which provides educational information and news about wildlife crime and endangered species. Rhishja has journeyed to the streets of Hanoi to research the illegal wildlife trade, and to the rainforests of Sumatra and Java to document the world’s rarest rhinos. At CITES CoP16 in Bangkok, she joined colleagues from around the world to lobby in favor of protecting endangered species from economic exploitation. When Rhishja is not blogging about the illegal wildlife trade, she enjoys gardening, reading, designing, and rocking out to live music.



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