This week, the South African media reported that some game farmers and reserve owners have allegedly been killing their own rhinos and claiming the rhinos were “poached” — and then selling the horns on the black market.
Of course, game farmer Dawie Groenewald was mentioned in the IOL/ Cape Times revelation, since the bodies of 20 dehorned rhinos were found in a mass grave on his property shortly after his 2010 arrest.
The South African Hunters and Game Conservation Association’s deputy president, Gerhard Verdoorn, also told the Cape Times about “a suspicious case in KwaZulu-Natal where a game farm owner did not want police to investigate the dehorning of one of his rhinos and had warned his staff members not to talk about the incident”.
But it’s not only the private rhino owners who are willing to make a killing by killing. Back in March 2010, a Carte Blanche episode revealed that a well-known predator breeder in South Africa obtained a permit to euthanize 20 lions so he could sell their bones. (South Africa has managed to capitalize on the scarcity of tigers by supplying lion bones as a substitute for tiger bones in traditional Chinese medicine and “tiger bone wine” — a Chinese luxury tonic.)
And then there’s game farmer Marnus Steyl, who (allegedly) hired Thai prostitutes to pose as trophy hunters to kill rhinos on his property. Steyl is (allegedly) linked to the lion bone trade as well.
However, a Hawks’ spokesperson told Eyewitness News that they do not want “farmers to be painted with the same brush [as poachers]“.
Meanwhile, R11 million (US $1,331,077) in assets belonging to South African game farmer and convicted rhino horn dealer Jacques Els have been seized. The assets are “believed to have been acquired through criminal activities” and the seizure includes his Thabazimbi property.
Els began serving his eight-year sentence earlier this month.
As of July 17th, at least 281 rhinos have been massacred for their horns this year in South Africa.
Another rhino horn dealer sentenced
A South African court sentenced Chinese national Xiaja Chen to eight years in prison for illegal possession of rhino horns, elephant tusks, and leopard skins.
Chen — who was arrested in May along with four accomplices — claimed he obtained the rhino horns so he could smuggle them to China for his cancer-stricken uncle, according to Beeld.
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.