Rhino Crisis Round Up: 'Groenewald Gang' in Court, World Rhino Day Video & More

This morning, South Africa’s notorious “Groenewald gang” made another court appearance. Is progress being made in efforts to bring this (alleged) rhino horn syndicate to justice?

And in Swaziland, three rhino killers got a taste of their own medicine.

Groenewald gang in court

Today (or yesterday, depending on your time zone) game farmer Dawie Groenewald, and veterinarians Karel Toet and Manie du Plessis, along with at least eight other suspects (including wives) made yet another court appearance.

But this time, it appears progress has been made.

I had the opportunity to exchange tweets this morning with Media24‘s investigative reporter Julian Rademeyer (@julianrademeyer), who is following the developments on the ground in South Africa, and he says the “Groenewald gang” is going to trial.

I am a big fan of Julian’s work. He is writing an in-depth piece on the Groenewald gang for tomorrow – be sure to check it out.

While today’s outcome is not as immediately satisfying as having the entire lot of (alleged) thugs rounded up and tossed in jail for the rest of their lives, it does seem to be better than another postponement (without trial set) or having the matter swept under the rug.

Unfortunately, South Africa’s rhino death toll continues to rise: At the time of this writing, at least 309 rhinos have been killed this year.

Vietnam – South Africa meeting

It appears that this week’s meeting between Vietnamese officials and their South African counterparts could have finally moved the rhino horn conversation in the right direction.

A Vietnamese diplomat was quoted as saying “we need to get rid of the wrong understanding that rhino horn can cure cancer.”

According to MSNBC, attending diplomat Kien Nguyen seemed willing to tackle the issue of rhino horn demand in Vietnam.

We need to raise public awareness of the importance of biodiversity and we need to get rid of the wrong understanding that rhino horn can cure cancer.

Kien Nguyen’s declaration (which I hope will be followed up with meaningful action and not just a PR stunt) is in line with a growing consensus that debunking medicinal myths will help diminish consumer demand for rhino horn.

Earlier this month, the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine (RCHM) denounced the notion that rhino horn is a remedy for cancer.

This follows a statement made in August by the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ACTCM), and Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCAOM).

A taste of their own medicine

Sad news from the Times of Swaziland: A white rhino was killed on Tuesday at Hlane Royal National Park.

However, the following evening, investigations led to an armed gang who opened fire on police. Police returned fire and shot all three gang members dead.

Two rhino horns, a .303 long range rifle, a .22 long range rifle, and 17 live rounds of ammunition were recovered.

One of the deceased was identified as Lucky Maseko from South Africa, who was already wanted for killing a rhino in June 2011.

(It is not confirmed if this is the same Lucky Maseko who was arrested in South Africa in 2010, while out on bail after killing rhinos in the Songimvelo Game Reserve. Update 10/03/2011: This is the same Maseko. Read more here.)

This was the second rhino killed in Swaziland, where three have been lost in total. The first was a female rhino, whose orphaned calf later died.

World Rhino Day video

“All in for Rhinos” is now posted! The video features World Rhino Day events and activities in Zimbabwe, South Africa, the UK, Nepal, Australia, the US, Malaysia, Kenya and Vietnam.

From protests in the streets to children’s artwork, the message is clear: Rhino horn is NOT medicine. Enjoy!

Photo #1 courtesy & © Chishakwe Ranch & Sheila Schoemann; photo #2 courtesy & © Ross Bowers, Rhino Africa Safaris; rhino image © Saving Rhinos LLC

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