1.3 tons of poached rhino horn, ivory seized in Mozambique

2015-05-14 18:12

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Maputo - Police in Mozambique said on Thursday they had seized 1.3 tons of elephant ivory and rhino horn - the result of killing about 200 animals - in the country's biggest ever find of illegal wildlife products.

An Asian man was arrested on the outskirts of the capital Maputo at a house where the stash was stored.

Rhino are extinct in Mozambique, but hunters from the country are often armed by transnational crime syndicates to kill rhinos and elephants across the border in South Africa.

The police raid on Tuesday discovered 340 elephant tusks, weighing 1 160kg,  and 65 rhino horns, weighing 124kg.

"The man lived alone in the house for three months and hid his illegal activity by pretending to be involved in tin can recycling," Emidio Mabunda, spokesperson for the Maputo provincial police, said.

"Some of the tusks still have fresh blood, a sign that some of animals could have been killed recently."

Mabunda clarified earlier reports that the man was Chinese, says he was Asian but his nationality was not confirmed.

South Africa has been hit with a sharp rise in rhino poaching in recent years, with numbers at record levels this year despite renewed government efforts and the use of helicopters and anti-poaching dogs.

Kruger National Park

The 65 rhino horns seized were most likely hacked from animals slaughtered in the Kruger National Park.

Rhino horn is prized in Asia for its supposed medicinal properties in traditional cures for cancer, impotence and hangovers, while elephant ivory is highly valued in China and Thailand in artworks or jewellery.

The cache was reported to have a street value of about $6.3m.

Police hope that the suspect will lead them to the trafficking gang behind poaching.

They added that the illegal goods were ready to be smuggled out the country.

"It should be destroyed to send a message to the world that... we are shifting to another level of intervention in the fight against poaching," prominent environmental activist Carlos Serra said.

Read more on:    mozambique  |  knp  |  conservation  |  rhino poaching

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