Rhino Crisis Round Up: S African Death Toll Rises to 80 & More

It’s just 61 days into 2012 and at least 80 rhinos have already been killed in South Africa.

South African National Parks (SANParks) released the grim tally earlier this week, along with the news that four Kruger National Park employees have been arrested for suspected involvement with rhino killings.

Dr. David Mabunda, the Chief Executive Officer of SANParks, expressed his disappointment in a SANParks statement.

It is a very sad day for South Africa to find out that the unscrupulous and revolting hands of the poaching syndicates have stretched as far as to taint the hands of those trusted with the great responsibility of being guardians of our natural heritage.

I am personally saddened to discover that some of our own would so callously abuse the confidence and faith that we have entrusted upon them.

The employee case has been postponed until next week for a formal bail application.

43 of the 80 rhino killings occurred in South Africa’s famed Kruger National Park.

Meanwhile, several rhino horns were reportedly stolen from the police evidence laboratory in Pretoria.

A lab clerk, identified as Azarial Shola Matjila, appeared in he Pretoria District Court on Wednesday and “vehemently denied any wrongdoing”.

Rodeo star arrested for rhino horn smuggling

In the US, additional details have emerged regarding “Operation Crash”, which has so far resulted in the arrests of seven people for rhino horn trafficking.

One of the suspects, Wade Steffen, is a former rodeo star, and was a 2010 co-champion at the All-American ProRodeo Finals in Waco, Texas.

In February 2011, he was attacked by a camel and rescued by people who apparently gouged out the camel’s eye.

Steffen is currently in a Texas jail, where he is awaiting transfer to California. He is charged with conspiracy and violations of the Lacey Act and the Endangered Species Act.

The maximum penalty for conspiracy is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine; for violating the Lacey Act, five years and $250,000; and for violating the Endangered Species Act, one year and $100,000.

The other six suspects have been identified as follows:

  • California: Jin Zhao Feng, a Chinese national who allegedly oversaw the shipment of at least dozens of rhino horns from the United States to China.
  • California: Jimmy Kha, the owner of Win Lee Corporation. Seventeen packages received by Kha were opened under federal search warrants and 37 rhinoceros horns were found.
  • California: Kha’s son, Felix Kha.
  • California: Mai Nguyen, the owner of a nail salon where packages containing rhinoceros horns were being mailed.
  • New Jersey: Amir Even-Ezra, who purchased rhino horns from an individual from New York.
  • New York: David Hausman, an antiques expert who allegedly purchased a black rhinoceros mount (a taxidermied head of a rhinoceros) from an undercover officer in Illinois and was later observed sawing off the horns in a motel parking lot.

Check out USFWS Director Dan Ashe and USFWS Law Enforcement Chief William C. Woody discussing “Operation Crash”:

The investigation has also revealed that Jim Lolli of Lolli Brothers Livestock Market in Macon, MO, and former Macon Police Chief Scott Ziebarth may be connected to the rhino horn trafficking ring.

Additional arrests are expected.

Arrests in Nepal

The Himalayan reports that Nepalese authorities arrested four people and confiscated a rhino horn over the weekend.

The suspects were identified as Tej Bahadur KC of Sunkhani-1, Sindhupalchowk; Raiman Shrestha of Dhapasi-2, Kathmandu; Devendra Raj Gurung of Chokati-9, Sindhupalchok; and Gyani Bastola of Bhaktapur Municipality -10.

Rhino census in Assam

On March 15th, the Indian state of Assam will begin conducting its rhino census.

The 12-day operation covers Kaziranga and Orang National Parks, and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary.

Although greater one-horned rhinos once lived in Eastern Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh, and into Myanmar, they are now found only in India and Nepal.

Photos: Rhinos in the sunset via Shutterstock; greater one-horned rhinos in the water via Shutterstock.

Rhino chart: Saving Rhinos LLC

2 thoughts on “Rhino Crisis Round Up: S African Death Toll Rises to 80 & More”

  1. Hi Sabine,

    Thanks for your comment. There are several NGOs currently working on issues in Asia. For example, Education for Nature-Vietnam, TRAFFIC, Animals Asia Foundation, Humane Society International, IFAW, WWF, etc. You could try contacting them to see how you can get involved with their existing campaigns. Best of luck!


  2. Sabine Stritter

    Dear Rhishja,
    What horrible news on the killing side of SA rhinos. We recently had a discussion with a very good guide from Zimbabwe and we were all not that positive about the future of rhinos and elephants if these high poaching numbers carry on like this knowing that teh breeding period of a rhinos takes ages…..Isn´t their a more powerful way to approach the Asians with this issue: for example getting Avaaz involved and asking them to start a big campaign forcing the Asian states to do 1st more education on their people, secondly to force them to install higher penalties for rhino horn traders and poachers and 3rdly to force them to control ports, airports etc. much better…even if this means x raying all the containers that come into the port a sthey did with our container when it arrived from Namibia to Hamburg, Germany. We had to pay I think 180 EUR but we had to because on one of the pervious containers from Nam. a load of fur had been found.
    I already tried a couple of times with Avaaz to start a campaign on saving rhinos because with over 12 Mill. members worldwide it coidl have a bigger effect. May be they would listen to you since you are the founder of Saving Rhinos?
    Best regards from Zanzibar, Tanzania

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