Vietnamese Nationals Caught Smuggling Rhino Horns In South Africa
A pair of Vietnamese smugglers have been arrested at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport for attempting to smuggle rhino horns and elephant ivory out of the country.
AsianScientist (Dec. 21, 2011) – South African authorities arrested two Vietnamese nationals at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport last week for attempting to smuggle rhino horns and elephant ivory out of the country.
The two arrested – a 40-year-old man and a 30-year-old woman – have been charged with illegal possession of elephant ivory and rhino horn under the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act (NEMBA).
Security X-ray scanners alerted authorities of the illegal goods in the suspects’ luggage as they passed through security. Members of the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Police Service then discovered two rhino horns, five elephant tusks, 20 ivory chopsticks, 31 ivory bangles, 18 ivory blocks, and three ivory earrings.
The arrest comes only months after another pair of Vietnamese nationals were convicted of smuggling 20 rhino horns at OR Tambo International Airport. They were sentenced to 12 and 8 years in jail respectively.
A record number of rhinos – over 430 to date – were poached in South Africa this year. Demand for ivory continues to fuel the poaching of elephants as well, especially in East and Central Africa.
Although used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, the current high demand for rhino horn appears to be driven primarily from Vietnam, where it is being prescribed by some medical practitioners as a ‘detoxicant’ and is popular among high-flyers trying to impress their peers.
“There is no doubt the demand for rhino horn in Asia is directly responsible for the continuing rhino poaching surge in Africa,” said Chris Shepherd, Deputy Director of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.
“Action, not talk, is needed. Enforcement agencies must increase their efforts now and put rhino and elephant poachers and traders behind bars,” he added.
According to TRAFFIC data, the last arrest of a rhino horn smuggler in Vietnam occurred in 2008, with no arrests since then.
In September, South African and Vietnamese authorities formally agreed on a process to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collaborate on natural resource management, wildlife protection, and law enforcement.
Source: TRAFFIC; Photo credit: WWF-Canon/Martin HARVEY.
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