Fears that syndicates could target rhino horn stockpiles

2014-04-22 18:56
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Johannesburg – Fears have been raised that rhino horn syndicates might shift their focus targeting stockpiles that were confiscated from poachers.

The theft of nearly 40 rhino horns, worth an estimated R160m, from the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) over the Easter weekend, has raised concerns over the security of these stockpile locations.

The horns were stolen at a safe house after robbers managed to break-in to the safe using power tools.

Across South Africa government agencies and some private game reserves keep stockpiles of rhino horns, including some confiscated from poachers and others shaved off rhinos in an attempt to deter attacks.

"These guys are going to look for other places... We're like sitting ducks," said Brian Morris, a senior manager at the MTPA on Tuesday.

The rhino horns at MTPA were stocked there on a temporarily basis, and were going to be transported it to undisclosed location for longer-term storage.

Morris said Mpumalanga province is struggling for resources.

“We recently bought a small aeroplane to monitor its parks, and have earmarked funds to pay a pilot in this year's budget. “

He said he was concerned that poachers could focus more on the province's parks if they come under more pressure from rangers in nearby Kruger Park.

Terry Bengis, a rhino activist, told The Star the theft of the rhino horns could see syndicates shifting their focus to stockpiles.

He said normally about two to three horns entered the market daily.

The Hawks said they were exploring the possible that the robbery could be an inside job.

"It's too early to be ruling out that possibility," said spokesperson Paul Ramaloko. "We are approaching the investigation with an open mind."

The Star reported that the horns stored at MTPA were from incidents where rhino were killed, but poachers failed to remove their horns.

He said robbers had left behind guns and elephant tusks, which were also stored in the safe.

Read more on:    hawks  |  vusi shongwe  |  mbombela  |  crime  |  poaching

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