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.
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.
Both Steyl and Groenewald have reportedly denied any connection to Lemtongthai.
Learn more about the rhino crisis:
- Mules Hunting Rhinos? Sinister Scam Unfolds in South Africa
- Rhino Crisis Round Up: ‘Eco-Clubs’ in Nepal, New Arrivals in India & Groenewald Makes a Deal
- Concern Grows Around South Africa’s Legal Trade in Live Rhinos
Image: 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.