Three Mozambicans identified by BuaNews as Aselmo Baloyi, Jawaki Nkuna and Ismael Baloyi each received 25 years in jail for killing rhinos in Kruger National Park back in 2010.
The trio was found guilty of illegal hunting of rhino, possession of a firearm and a prohibited firearm, and possession of ammunition.
While the stiff sentence is a welcome deterrent, it is still not addressing the deeper issue of corruption within South Africa’s wildlife industry.
Rhino horn and ivory trade expert Dr. Tom Milliken of TRAFFIC suggested via BusinessDay that in order for South Africa to make a dent in the rhino crisis, “game-industry white guys” (generally higher up in the rhino horn syndicates) need to be sentenced as well.
We have now moved into serious deterrence territory, at last. But the proof in the pudding will be if those South African game-industry white guys who are involved in rhino crime get similar sentences. Then we’ll start to see things turned around.
Speaking of “white guys”, South Africa’s high-profile “Groenewald gang” case is expected to resume in April, following the 2010 arrest of game farmer Dawie Groenewald, veterinarians with Karel Toet and Manie du Plessis (and their wives), and professional hunter Tielman Erasmus.
The gang is accused of assault, fraud, corruption, malicious damage to property, illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, and contravention of the National Environmental Biodiversity Act.
Dr. Richard Emslie, Scientific Officer of the African Rhino Specialist Group/IUCN Species Survival Commission noted that “if racketeering was proved, it carries a maximum sentence of imprisonment for life.”
A total of 448 rhinos were slaughtered last year in South Africa (compared to 333 in 2010), and at least 24 have been killed since the start of 2012.
British zoos on alert
Now it seems rhinos are not even safe in zoos.
The International Business Times reports that 15 British zoos and safari parks — which house 85 rhinos — have been alerted by the National Wildlife Crime Unit to “tighten security and report any suspicious activity to police immediately”.
Two weeks ago, a suspect identified as Chin Khansong was arrested for attempting to kill rhinos at the Assam State Zoo (India), where nine greater one-horned rhinos are kept.
He had a .303 rifle, ammunition, an axe, and a machete in his possession.
Disturbing details about China’s ‘rhino farm’
Here’s an all-time ethical low: A profit-seeking scheme in China to market rhino horn as a treatment for cancer.
A Longhui Pharmaceutical Company page on the Fularji District People’s Government website (http://flej.gov.cn) publicly states that “Rhino horn is very important in the Chinese medicine field because of its effects: detoxication and anti-cancer, eliminating pathogenic heat from the blood, removing eczema.”
According to published information, the Longhui Company’s projected annual profit on “rhino horn products” is 178.86 RMB (28.24 million USD) from 390.99 RMB (61.74 million USD) in annual sales.
Bogus Medicine — China’s Rhino Horn Scheme:
Another worrying factor is that South Africa has exported more than 100 live rhinos to China, perhaps indicating a connection to Longhui’s “complete business chain of raw material extraction” project.
No need to use rhino horn
But Longhui’s ambitious multimillion dollar rhino horn scheme seems to conflict with some leaders from the Chinese medicine community.
Lixin Huang, the President of the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ACTCM) and Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCAOM), said in an August 2011 statement that the use of rhino horn as a cancer treatment is “non-traditional and unproven”.
Regarding the traditional use of rhino horn, President of the Herbalist Association in Hong Kong, Dr Ho Ka Cheong, says that “rhino horn can be simply, cheaply and effectively replaced by Aspirin.”
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.