R23m in rhino horn returned to SA

2013-11-27 14:06
Colonel Johan Jooste of the Hawks is seen at a news conference in Johannesburg where he spoke about a consignment of rhino horns and ivory products seized by officials in Hong Kong. (File, SAPA)

Colonel Johan Jooste of the Hawks is seen at a news conference in Johannesburg where he spoke about a consignment of rhino horns and ivory products seized by officials in Hong Kong. (File, SAPA)

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Johannesburg - A consignment of rhino horn and ivory products with an estimated value of R23m on the black market has been returned to South Africa, the Hawks said on Wednesday.

"In 2011, a consignment of rhino horn was seized in Hong Kong," Colonel Johan Jooste told reporters in Johannesburg.

"It took us more than a year to bring back the items seized."

The National Prosecuting Authority, the departments of environmental affairs and international relations, and the police's forensic laboratory had combined to formulate an application to get the consignment back.

A total of 33 rhino horns, 758 ivory chopsticks and 127 ivory bracelets was returned.

According to the Department of Environmental Affairs the rhino horns weigh 79,9kg and have a black market value of around R23,8m.

Forensic evaluation

A forensic evaluation of the rhino horns done by a South African forensic specialist and released by the Department states that:

"The the victims of the illegal exportation of the horns were not only large adult rhinos, but also very young juvenile or sub-adult rhinos. It has further been determined that some of these horns were harvested from rhino that had previously been dehorned. The investigation had further revealed that all the horns were cut at the growth point, suggesting that the horns were obtained from rhino that had been killed.

The ivory bracelets and chop sticks that were part of the consignment all had similar dimensions indicating that these items were manufactured in the same facility. This fact further suggests that these items were mass produced, most probably utilising sophisticated machinery. The large number of ivory items is evidence that multiple elephants were killed to produce enough ivory to manufacture all these items."

MOU with China

Environmental affairs department deputy director general Fundisile Mketeni said the return of the seized items was a result of ongoing engagements with the Asian bloc.

"When we heard about the consignment last year we visited Hong Kong... we are doing our part as environmental affairs."

He said South Africa had an existing memorandum of understanding with China and was now negotiating with Hong Kong.

This was because Hong Kong was the main entry point for goods leaving South African shores.

The department said the number of rhino poached in the country this year was 891 compared to 668 last year, and 448 in 2011.

Since January 2013, 548 rhino had been poached in the Kruger National Park, 89 in Limpopo, 82 in the North west, 79 in KwaZulu-Natal, and 77 in Mpumalanga.

The total number of people arrested for rhino poaching reached 310 this week, the department said.

Read more on:    hawks  |  johannesburg  |  rhino poaching

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