Great news! The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has cracked a major international rhino horn trafficking ring and arrested several people across a dozen states.
The undercover investigation called “Operation Crash” also resulted in the seizure of more than 30 rhino horns, over $1 million in cash, and $1 million in Rolex watches, gold bars, and diamonds.
According to the LA Times, three people identified as Wade Steffen, Jimmy Kha, and his son Felix Kha, are currently in jail.
The Khas are reportedly in jail following their arrest last week at Los Angeles International Airport, and Steffen was incarcerated in Texas after being stopped by TSA officials at Long Beach Airport on February 9th.
Authorities found images of “rhinoceros horns being weighed on scales” on a digital camera carried by Steffen’s wife.
Steffen was allegedly working with a Missouri auction house to obtain the horns, which he shipped to Kha, who is believed to have been smuggling the horns out of the country.
Records show that hundreds of thousands of dollars were transferred to accounts in China and elsewhere, and that suspects traveled between California, Texas, Missouri and Asia.
Update: A list of seven people arrested in “Operation Crash” can be found here.
Rhinos on ‘Rock Center’
Last night, NBC’s “Rock Center with Brian Williams” brought the rhino crisis to American TV audiences, complete with brutal and graphic footage of dead and dying rhinos.
Harry Smith’s coverage of the carnage in South Africa was outstanding, and rhino horn’s lack of medicinal properties was emphasized several times during the piece.
Rhino horn robbery foiled
BBC news reports that the staff at Norwich Castle Museum stopped four men from stealing a rhino head.
The would-be robbers grabbed the rhino head after forcing open the display case, but fled without the rhino horn when they were interrupted by museum staff.
The museum is planning to replace the rhino horn with a replica.
However, in Germany, a gang did manage to steal the horns from a rhino exhibit at a museum in Offenburg.
Two thieves smashed the horns from the rhino head, while their accomplices distracted museum staff.
The incident occurred last Saturday, during daylight hours.
More rhinos for Manas
Indian Rhino Vision 2020 continued to move forward this week, as four greater one-horned rhinos (three females and one male) were successfully relocated from Kaziranga National Park to their new home in Manas National Park.
The operation was made possible by a partnership that includes the government of Assam, the International Rhino Foundation (IRF), the World Wide Fund for Nature, the Bodoland Territorial Council and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Efforts are under way to build the rhino population in the state of Assam to 3,000 animals by the year 2020.
To help support Indian Rhino Vision 2020 (and other rhino conservation programs), check out the International Rhino Foundation website.
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.