Wildlife trafficking trail leads to SA safari man

2011-07-21 23:04

Johannesburg - A South African lion breeder and safari operator has emerged as a key supplier of millions of rands worth of rhino horn to a ruthless southeast Asian wildlife trafficking syndicate.

Marnus Steyl, 37, allegedly stood to make at least R16m in just 13 weeks this year by supplying 50 sets of rhino horn to a Laotian company fronting for the syndicate.

Media24 Investigations has established that the Xaysavang Trading Export-Import company - which reportedly operates from a hotel  in central Laos - placed the order on April 23. 

The requisition, which was signed by one of the company’s directors states bluntly: "1 month can shoot 15 rhino".

Chumlong Lemtongthai, 43, a senior Xaysavang director and a Thai citizen was arrested two weeks ago at a house in Edenvale and is expected to appear in court on Friday on 23 counts of obtaining rhino hunting permits under false pretences.

Sham hunts

Lemtongthai and his associates are alleged to have exploited legislation, which allows "trophy hunting" of rhinos, to obtain vast quantities of horn for the lucrative black markets of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

The syndicate is alleged to have used young Thai women, many of them trafficked to South Africa to work in brothels and strip-clubs,  as "hunters" in sham hunts.

Lemtongthai's arrest was the culmination of a year-long investigation by the South African Revenue Service (Sars), aided by the Hawks, into Xaysavang’s activities.

Forensic investigator Paul O'Sullivan, the man who blew the whistle on corrupt police chief Jackie Selebi, also provided investigators with information from a key insider connected to the alleged racket.

Above board

This week Steyl denied any wrongdoing, telling Media24 Investigations: "We know our things are in order. Everything is above board; it can’t be any other way."

Media24 Investigations has obtained copies of affidavits, invoices, letters and dozens of photographs which trace Steyl's business dealings with Lemtongthai and another figure, Punpitak Chunchom, 44.

Chunchom - the syndicate’s alleged 'man-on-the-ground' in South Africa was recently expelled from the country after pleading guilty to the illegal possession of lion bones.

Steyl, who owns or has interests in farms and businesses in the Free State, North West Province, the Eastern Cape and Abu Dhabi,  sprang to prominence in 2006 and 2007 when lions escaped from his game farm near Winburg in the Free State.

Lion bones

Steyl's involvement with  Xaysavang dates back to at least October last year.

In a letter dated October 30 2010, Steyl confirmed that "Steyl Game CC helps to organise and conduct hunting for clients of Xaysavang Trading Export-Import co Ltd of Laos" and "assists with the export of predators, wild game, antelope and exotic species like rhino, lion, sable and roan antelope".

On November 16, Xaysavang was invoiced a total R1.3m by Steyl Game for 22kg of rhino horn. A month later, an amount of R434 000 was invoiced for "3 rhino".

Documents also show that the company charged Xaysavang R65 000 for a consignment of lion bones on November 4.

A series of photographs which appear to have been taken over two days in late March at a game farm in North West province, show Steyl, Chunchom and two young Thai women grinning as they pose next to carcasses of rhinos shot in a "hunt".

Another image clearly shows a labourer with a "Steyl Game CC" shirt preparing to remove a horn from a dead rhino as Chunchom looks on.

Undercover cop

Xaysavang first came to the attention of South African authorities in September 2008, when Chunchom and four other suspects were arrested in Middelburg in Mpumalanga after they allegedly offered an undercover policeman $60 000 for three rhino horns. 

The case against Chunchom and two other suspects was later withdrawn.

In July 2009 the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and customs officers seized 260kg of elephant ivory and 18kg of rhino horn at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

The shipment was registered to Xaysavang and was destined for Laos. Officials suspected the shipment originated in South Africa.

The company also reportedly owns a 20ha farm in Laos and breeds long-tailed macaques for export to China as laboratory animals.


  • witbitch - 2011-07-21 23:17

    Idiot!! he should be jailed for LIFE!!

      whereu - 2011-07-22 02:43

      Witbitch, how about poaching them in hot tar?

      OllieMor - 2011-07-22 07:38

      Or removing their "horns"

      charles - 2011-07-22 07:48

      Cut off his 'horn' and let him bleed to death, the coward !!

      Risen Ape - 2011-07-22 08:57

      Marnus Steyl, your number is up buddy.

      Gomez - 2011-07-22 09:17


      Green Oaks - 2011-07-22 11:09

      Put him against the wall and shoot the bastard, and then Poloyatonki next. D00s !!!

      marcelminnaar - 2011-07-22 12:42

      I think his horn should be removed, and let him bleed out like the rhinos

      420 - 2011-07-22 13:02

      Why did we deport that Thai national? He should strung up and waterboarded until he reveals all the details of this ruthless industry...

      David - 2011-07-22 14:55

      @Poloyatonki..I have no idea as to why you would place such a comment for no apparent reason. Best to focus your life on better things than to divulge your mind on stupid remarks.

      Raymond Northgreaves - 2014-05-10 19:57

      sorry, do not agree with that! he should be killed, all who do this should be shoot in the head!

  • Bill - 2011-07-21 23:19

    Confiscate all his assets and throw him in jail for 15 years...!

      Baddy - 2011-07-22 08:17


  • OZNOB - 2011-07-21 23:28


      Barry M - 2011-07-22 14:09

      Lions are very particular as to what they eat!

  • sipholess - 2011-07-21 23:28

    Save the wildlife, cull the humans.

      Dnt8 - 2011-07-22 07:41

      @nico....lmao dude..

      Baddy - 2011-07-22 08:18

      @Nico - No we should start with urs

      shaun.cousins1 - 2011-07-22 08:49

      he is a ja lets start at the top

      Gary - 2011-07-24 10:11

      My sentiments exactly, too many humans!!!

  • bernard.ridge - 2011-07-21 23:55

    Why is it that every time I look at comments the race issue is raised, Cut the crap and get to the point, a crimminal is a crimminal and they cut across all races,languages,ethnic groups,religous groups and so called classes in all societies, This situation stinks of greed and it is discusting no matter who you are,where you come from or what you are, As for the idiots that consume Rhino Horn or Shark fin for that matter stop now and take responsibility for what you are causing ,carnage on an unbeleivable and unsustainable scale,"idiots"

      Gungets Tuft - 2011-07-22 08:04

      Bernard - because it is easy and people do not need to try and resurrect their brains. It happens either side of the race line and is because it is far easier to pin problems on genetics than to try and figure out the real reasons for thing. It is lazy. So much so that I am amazed at how many (deserved) Thumbs Up that you got.

      B4frmhmland - 2011-07-22 09:19

      You are the first of the kind buddy. I agree with you...this race issue is really crap! Crime affects everyone even in Dubai!

      Beth607 - 2011-07-22 17:56

      BS - I don't care if the POS is GREEN - worthless ass.

  • sabc10 - 2011-07-22 00:30

    Rhino poaching is not the only fastest growing profession amongst white and black south africans.Other forms of poaching and animal trafficking has been going on in south africa for decades involving housewives,policemen,vets,rich miners sons's,pilots,lawyers,soldiers to game rangers.Animals that have been traded are varied from owls to abalone.This past week another big syndicate was caught in the eastern cape.Two weeks ago it was irishmen from Ireland. This trade is similar to the opium trade in asia where westerners were cornering the market and reselling to innocent asians. Drug traffickers where also caught in an up market suburb of waterkloof ready to traffick their goods to asians. About 4 weeks ago a south african drug mule was caught in china and faces execution This article is disingenuous and racist.The most ruthless is this so called safari operator.I would think asians have been mislead. When this ongoing "poaching" was "first" discovered everyone was blaming the chinese people for this...NOW THE TRUTH IS BEEN EXPOSED. These operators should be extradited to china and be treated the same way as the drug mules.

      WhiteGuiltObviously - 2011-07-22 12:32

      This is what Africa has been about since it was "saved" by the settlers - if you look into this dude I am sure he advocates as a protector of SA wildlife - lol - I would say all wildlife farms should be in the states hands but JCAM, how would that be any better. Bye bye big 5 - hello sand and concrete.

  • braveinternetguy - 2011-07-22 00:46

    Throw the book at this character! Crimes against nature, against humanity, treason - life imprisonment should be appropriate. This despicable man has singlehandedly brought catastrophy to a species that has been on this earth for a very long time, but it was not by hatred, but by greed. Such is the power of the lust for money - it even kills love. VIVA UMDUZU! VIVA!

  • Rabbit01 - 2011-07-22 01:06

    They should cut his bloody horn off as well

      nn.prv - 2011-07-22 07:45

      It probably doesn't and work thats why he tries the rhino's.

  • Mike-O - 2011-07-22 03:28

    Greedy pig!

  • sam - 2011-07-22 03:54

    This is absolutely disgusting! If these 'people' are guilty, they should all be killed in the same ruthless, painful manner they kill these rhino's. It makes me sick! When will this stop? When rhino's are extinct? Bloody bunch of dumb-ass fools the lot of them!

      umlaut - 2011-07-22 12:26

      When the rhino is extinct then the Thai people will also become extinct because how else are they going to make 'that thing' operational

      Beth607 - 2011-07-22 17:58

      Couldn't agree more ! Rip off his horn & let him bleed to death.

  • B Rabbit - 2011-07-22 05:40

    South Africa has real ROT inside it, so very sad. You are all blinded by race; whites, blacks, coloureds and indians. Everything is about race. We are all f*cked if we don't come right and start working together. Millions will die of all races. And to my fellow black brothers who do not believe that because of our numbers, we will come off the worst as we will be slaughtered en-masse because our townships are so densely populated, think firestorms. Come on people, work together man!!

      Beth607 - 2011-07-22 18:01

      PLEASE do NOT make this a racial issue !! So tired of that crap. This POS murdered animals for his personal greed. I couldn't care less what color he/it is.......... in fact, I didn't even notice he was black until you brought it up.

      Lynda Jones - 2014-07-03 19:05

      B Rabbit for President! Good comment. Yes, God made us ALL in His own image. There is no place for "us" and "them" thinking. there is no 'in group' and 'out group', we are all in the same economy together. We have the same intellects, the same tears, blood and bone, and until we learn to work together as human beings the country is going to continue sliding into the economic toilet. The ANC which led us out of apartheid is now morally bankrupt and dissolute. The 'people on the ground' have to lobby parliament and do whatever else we can to make SA work.

  • unknwnartist - 2011-07-22 05:43

    Put them all away, there is not enough space in this country for people like that. "Papa wag vir jou"! send him to pollsmoor...

  • pig - 2011-07-22 06:02

    shoot the ofenders

      Motekwane - 2011-07-22 08:06

      Cut their horns off.

  • Marcell - 2011-07-22 06:11

    What is the issue around Rhino horn? Why don't we create hugh areas where Rhino can be breed and slaughter for their horn? Make it legal. Make it a business!

      The Observer - 2011-07-22 06:58

      agree. Rhino farmers will spring up every where, in such an manner Rinho's don't need to be killed either.

      Worldwise - 2011-07-22 07:05

      You're displaying your ignorance. Do a bit of reading first and you will see that Rhino are slow breeders and also do not breed in captivity.

      Marcell - 2011-07-22 07:16

      I'm not talking about a zoo type setup. Something like the Krugersdorp park or even kruger park. Why do the Parks board sell life rhino. Slaughter the one's that you were going to sell instead and flood the market. You get more for a rhino horn than a life one.

      jjhvan - 2011-07-22 07:31

      Make artificial Rhino horn and put them on donkeys. Thai people won't know the difference.

      Monnie - 2011-07-22 07:43

      Why slaughter them at all? They are slow breeders and thus they will die out and don't people understand what happens to the ecological system when an animal dies out? If you want the horn that badly, just put the animal to sleep, take the horn and let the rhino go. Why do humans always turn to the most violent / sick way of doing something?

      Baddy - 2011-07-22 08:23

      @The Observer - We can all see that you had a good education. Keep it up and you might get a job on one of those farms, cause that's all that you will be able to do with spelling like that. Think you should observe a bit better!!!! Rhinos will soon be extinct if it carries on like this, and they do not grow overnight. Why can't we put you on a farm and then hunt you, sure you will love that!!!

      Charlie99 - 2011-07-22 09:21

      @Marcell - dont quite your day job buddy... you probably suck at trying to do something on your own based on your reasoning...

      Evon - 2011-07-22 09:39

      Marcell, Rhinos do not have to be slaughtered for their horns. I agree to make Rhino horn harvesting legal- but to what purpose? What these idiots should do is research into what the Rhinos eat that could be of medicinal value.

      Marcell - 2011-07-22 13:22

      Charlie99: If people are prepared to pay for something, let them pay but be clever enough to give them what they on your terms.

      The Observer - 2011-07-22 14:58

      Baddy you spelling bee you. Gold star for you my friend. Then let me elaborate on your own ill informed comment. "Rhinos will soon be extinct if it carries on like this, and they do not grow overnight." Well my friend what did you think was the reason the Rhino was removed from the endangered species list, same goes Sables and other nearly extinct species. Game farming and hunting. I'm not going to search for stats on the matter , you can do that yourself. If it wasn’t for game farmers who started breeding the animals for hunting, Rhino’s would probably be extinct by now. These farmers get a lot of money from the hunting of one of these animals and in return one Rhino pays for the breeding of another 4(or so), it costs money to keep such an animal (something you clearly know nothing of). Look at Sables for instance, 10 years ago almost extinct, now? Go read yourself. Now my point is if you legalise Rhino Horn trade, the horn will be removed without killing the animal. Secondly more and more people will bread with them as it is lucrative, meaning that poaching will be largely curbed and so the animals in the parks will not be killed. Lastly to another ill informed comment made by worldwise. How do you think they breed with these animal on farms currently? Yes agreed slow breeders but have you heard of a thing call artificial insemination?

      The Observer - 2011-07-22 15:03

      Evon, Yes I totally agree however unfortunately these guys want the real thing, something like witchdoctor's and tribal medecine men in Africa, you need real bones etc. for the medicine to work. Laughable for us I know but these people believe in it. Biggest problem is you’ll never stop the poaching while there is a market (demand) so one has to find a alternative solution. Same scenario with drugs I guess.

      Lara - 2011-07-22 17:32

      Marcell you are so bloody stupid. You should be put into a large area and forced to make babies and then sell the babies and you for prostitution. You have no values and obviously are useless to this society. I wish I could cut you up slowly and let your kids watch you useless piece of human rubbish.

  • John - 2011-07-22 06:38

    Check behind the scenes for who is issuing the permits and how they benefit!

      Worldwise - 2011-07-22 07:06

      Exactly. You'll find some lovely government officials behind this.

      Reptiles Unlimited - 2011-07-22 08:24

      100% correct. Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife officials have already been arrested in connection with Rhino poaching.

  • jen - 2011-07-22 06:42

    @Frank, ag please get over yourself. Every single person would like people like these guys behind bars. I have never read anywhere that it is only black people who do crime... unfortunately crime that happens on an hourly basis in this country - according to published statistics, court appearances, jail population - mostly come from one population group. But everybody wants criminals behind bars, black or white, just like you.

  • observing - 2011-07-22 06:48

    The war is not between black and white - the war is between good and evil.

      dotty_01 - 2011-07-22 11:49

      unforunately the side that you call 'evil' is rather overpopulated by black people. so, you can use euphemisms all you like, but underlying your argument is a colour divide..... sorry about that

  • Mveve - 2011-07-22 07:03

    Jail is far too good a punishment for this man, AND ALL HIS ACCOMPLISSES.

  • hennie.dreyer1 - 2011-07-22 07:11

    Take of his horn for export, the bastard......!!!

  • biskit - 2011-07-22 07:12

    One day there'll be no Rhino's left - thanks to this bloody chop

  • Christo Stone - 2011-07-22 07:15

    Hang these bastards to dry in the sun!

  • Jakob - 2011-07-22 07:16

    one is in bethlehem, mr . Strydom.

  • Joy Thorpe - 2011-07-22 07:18

    Death Penalty to all !

  • Thingamebob - 2011-07-22 07:18

    The truth be told. The blacks are the little buggers that go and do the deed but behind all the stuff, the guys at the top are usually whites and indians. Most chop shops and pawn shops and scrap metal dealers are white or indian. They know were all the stuff comes from which they buy

  • Marcell - 2011-07-22 07:18

    We have a culture that slaughter humans for muti and one that slaughter animals for muti.

  • Vernon - 2011-07-22 07:20

    16m.Hey JUJU is this oke financing your new home?

  • Garry - 2011-07-22 07:25

    Shoot the bastards Garry

  • Sme - 2011-07-22 07:25

    FUTHERMUCKER!!!! no respect!

  • Nesomaniac - 2011-07-22 07:29

    Bring back the death penalty. People like this are a disgrace to humanity and should hang for the crows to pick clean. The government must stop issuing hunting licenses for rhino thereby cutting off this "legal" loophole.

  • Jaja - 2011-07-22 07:32

    When will the world ban all trade with China?!!! Their corrupt ways are destroying all that is beautiful.

  • Anrie - 2011-07-22 07:34


  • Justin - 2011-07-22 07:34

    Thanks to Media 24 and co for exposing this BS. These guys should be hung in public.

  • Motekwane - 2011-07-22 07:37

    Lets cut off his horn

  • Taz - 2011-07-22 07:43

    It sickens me in the first degree!! Shocking! The a$%@le should be buried in sand, and let the vultures take their time on his head.Then the hyenas with whats left.

  • nn.prv - 2011-07-22 07:43

    Drop him off at a Rhino sanctuary and let the Rhinos horn him good.He might just experience the true meaning of 'up yours'.

  • tiotudg - 2011-07-22 07:51

    As hy skuldig bevind word,konfiskeer ALLES, amputeer sonder verdowing 'n lid vir elke horing, beginnende by sy regter duim, gooi hom in die gevangenis en gooi die sleutel weg.

  • Captainmorgan - 2011-07-22 07:51

    Why is it possible in this day and age to be able to "LEGALLY" hunt a rhino??? That door should be closed NOW , we are in the 21st century not the 19th. And as for the (dare I say it) white tour operator , I think he is an absolute disgrace to humanity!!!!!!

  • Genevieve Pearson - 2011-07-22 07:53

    Well done SARS, Hawks.... blow this ring out the water and put a stop to rhino hunting full stop! And put all the culprits in jail!!

  • Goose - 2011-07-22 07:54

    Stick Steyl in jail for 25 years! Scumbag! The also find the government officials involved and put them in the same cell along with the chink "clients" Savage b@st@rds, the lot of them!

  • - 2011-07-22 07:57

    Am I missing something or is there not a very simple solution to end "legal" hunting of rhino. Simply ban rhino hunting as was done with Great Whites. Or are there Gov officials in the loop?

  • ariete - 2011-07-22 08:01

    cut his horn off

  • WHITEPRIDE - 2011-07-22 08:02

    Shame, the sad story here is that News24 can find this info but our over paid over weight, and under intelligent police force, Hawks can not find this out...... sis

  • Coin - 2011-07-22 08:19

    Shame on you Marnus! Bastard!

  • BlakKat - 2011-07-22 08:29

    What a stupid arrogant fool to think he is better than the beautiful animals he is maiming and killing. Now, how do we treat this man? An eye for an eye? His penis cut off for all the horns he's cut off? Nah! Jail for the rest of his natural life and his horn'll be removed in prison before he knows what his prison number is.

  • LouisFLY - 2011-07-22 08:32

    dickhead. As someone who's suppose to care for animals...i say jail for life.

  • K_za - 2011-07-22 08:38

    I hope you VREK you vark!!!!

  • BraBob - 2011-07-22 08:53

    He'll come off free, due to some legal loophole

  • caryn.dawson - 2011-07-22 09:05

    Ok people - we have a name, we have a photo, I'm up for a real life "Ultimate Survival" for this guy. Lets randomly drop him in the Kruger Park, Bear Grylls style, and see how much "fun" it is when animals aren't stuck in cages and shot at. I've got 3/1 odds on getting gored by a rhino - now that's justice!

  • Paul - 2011-07-22 09:05

    1000 pound bunker buster bomb quietly realeased over said hotel and front company no longer a problem,as for Marnus cut off his horn.

  • Charles Kane - 2011-07-22 09:08

    Cut off his horn.