Rhino horn: pair jailed for 5 years

2011-12-21 00:00

TWO men found in possession of a rhino horn in a vehicle at Heidelberg on November 11, 2010, have each been sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Half of the sentences were conditionally suspended by Empangeni magistrate H.V. Ngema.

Khulekani Nkomonde and Vusimuzi Msimango are from a rural area adjacent to iMfolozi game reserve in KwaZulu-Natal.

The rhino horn was linked to the carcass of a white rhino found in iMfolozi reserve.

Police received information that the horn was being taken by road and set up a roadblock at Heidelberg, where they seized the horn from a vehicle transporting the accused and two other men, who were later acquitted of involvement.

In evidence in court Nkomonde and Msimango claimed that they fortuitously came across a rhino carcass and took the horn after they had illegally entered the park for a hunting expedition with dogs.

State prosecutor Yuri Gengai called international rhino expert Dr Richard Emslie to testify in aggravation of sentence.

Emslie warned against the view that possession of rhino horn was less serious than the actual killing of rhino.

“Seen against a photograph of a bloody poached carcass, the simple possession and transporting of illegal horn and/or dealing in rhino horn somehow seems more benign … but horns have to get from the field where they have been poached, stolen or illegally bought in order to enter the end user markets … It is the illegal demand for rhino horn which ultimately results in rhinos being poached,” he said.

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