Theft of more than 40 rhino horns is SA’s biggest

2014-04-22 15:38

The theft of more than 40 rhino horns from steel safes belonging to the national parks department in Mpumalanga is the biggest of its kind in the country.

The thieves “knew where they were going and what they were going to do”, Hawks spokesperson Paul Ramaloko said. “This is the biggest theft of rhino horn we have ever experienced.”

The horns were stolen early yesterday morning, according to the parks department, which replied to emailed queries. No arrests have been made.

South Africa is home to 83% of Africa’s rhinos and 73% of all wild rhino worldwide. This year, 294 of the animals have been poached compared with a record 1 004 for all of last year.

The horns are smuggled to east Asia, where they are believed to cure cancer.

Ramaloko declined to estimate the value of the horns. Rhino horn sold illegally can fetch as much as $95 000 (R1 million) per kilogram, more than gold.

The horns were stolen from steel safes that were cut open, according to the Lowvelder, a newspaper based in Nelspruit.

Earlier this month, Vietnamese pop stars Thu Minh and Thanh Bui performed at a game park in the Eastern Cape to promote the start of a campaign in their country to discourage the purchase of rhino horns from poachers.

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