Poaching 'ringleader' in court

2014-09-29 16:17
Jack, a dog trained to track rhino poachers, has been stolen from the parking lot of the Brooklyn Mall in Pretoria. (Sapa)

Jack, a dog trained to track rhino poachers, has been stolen from the parking lot of the Brooklyn Mall in Pretoria. (Sapa)

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Pretoria - A pilot, a lawyer, a police officer and other members of an alleged poaching ring accused of killing two dozen rhino over several years have appeared in a court in Pretoria.

A judge ordered the group's alleged ringleader, Hugo Ras, and several other suspects to remain in custody until a bail hearing on 8 October and the bail applications of others were to be reviewed for a second day on Tuesday. A total of 10 suspects crowded onto a long courtroom bench in a case that conservationists say shows the sophistication of poaching syndicates seeking to cash in on growing demand for rhino horn in parts of Asia, including China and Vietnam.

The poaching ring operated in five of the nine provinces and was involved in "the brutal slaughter and mutilation of 24 rhino in state-owned and privately owned game reserves" between 2008 and 2012, according to a police statement.

The group also stole rhino horns or got them by other "devious means," illegally obtaining a total of 84 horns, police said.

The suspects were arrested on 19 September in simultaneous operations in several provinces after a year long investigation by police and other agencies.

Ras, who allegedly managed the poaching ring for five years, stood in the dock alongside his wife Trudie, who is also a suspected member of the poaching ring. He kissed her before guards led him out of the courtroom.

Limpopo is struggling to stem a surge in rhino poaching as demand for rhino horn rises in some parts of Asia, including China and Vietnam.

Some people view rhino horn as a status symbol and a healing agent, despite a lack of evidence that it can cure.

Read more on:    pretoria  |  rhino poaching

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