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.


  • Sammy - 2011-07-22 09:10

    pieces of poop... ZA = sick!

  • Sniper69 - 2011-07-22 09:11

    Put Steyl in the wild ....give the trafficked Thai Woman each a .308 and give him a 2 minute headstart - Screw Amazing Race, I'll watch this show....

  • Su - 2011-07-22 09:14

    I hope they rot in jail!

  • Hlabirwa - 2011-07-22 09:16

    Removing horns=Removing balls

  • GerryC - 2011-07-22 09:19

    To stand next to something so magnificent knowing that you just killed it tells me that you need help and the only help I can offer you is come to my place and I will give you as much chance as you gave that animal before I kill you.

  • june.lines - 2011-07-22 09:23

    Should all be thrown into a lions cage and ripped to shredds nice and slow we dont need humans on this planet like that,I would personally take a horn and stick where the sun dont shine......SHAME ON YOU......

  • gpk777 - 2011-07-22 09:38

    Here is a couple of South Africans that are doing something good for the rhino's, take a look at there website!

  • DW - 2011-07-22 09:43

    Lock all these guys up for a looooooong time WITHOUT the option of a fine. And hopefully they will be "horned" by someone in jail. That should put and end to it

  • BonVoyage - 2011-07-22 09:46

    If the small people from the east who are not man enough to keep their own horns UP, and have no respect for their woman to offer them to the African Continent, this market would not have been stimulated. The guys who are involved and found guilty must pay for there actions seeing that they fell pray for the greed. Message to all involved: Be a real Man and face your trail. And to the "SMALL" men from the east, find a more Manly way to keep your horn up boy and send your woman home. Our Men will keep us happy thanks.

  • Nawe - 2011-07-22 09:54

    Typical, another corrupt Afrikaaner Caught! Whats new? no lets blame the ANC for all the corruption & farm attacks! What a shame stupid corrupt ethnic group that accululates money in questionable means but always but they are the 1st to complain abt Malema. What is the D.A & Afri-Forum saying? thought as much?

      photofreak - 2011-07-22 10:35

      The DA and Afriform will not condone this, they will be outspoken about this as they are about the many other things wrong in the country. Why are you so blind? The fact that you are reading this article on the internet and typing reasonably well leads me to presume that you are literate and somewhat pull off your blinkers and knock that chip off your shoulder that is causing your tunnel vision. Why can you only be called a racist if you have a white skin? It's because of people like you that Malema can build his fancy houses and drive his fancy cars all in the name of defeating capitalism, can you not see the irony of it?? And you think the Afrikaaners accumulate their money in questionable means? You turned an article about rhino poaching into yet another debate on race, just like you wanted. There are criminals in any skin colour, but I don't know why I'm even bothering to explain all this to you.

      VELOCITY - 2011-07-22 13:01

      Typical, another black a/hole crawls out of the rubbish dump, what's new? And your type takes 10 year old girls and butchers them alive for their organs. What is your leaders saying about that? Thought so too...

  • Ann - 2011-07-22 09:57

    VERY GOOD INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM JULIAN! Thank you for exposing yet another blood thirsty, money hungry oxygen thief. Keep up the good work!

  • Arachnid - 2011-07-22 10:00

    Marnus Steyl should be dehorned.....slowly and painfully!

  • dale mckinla - 2011-07-22 10:02

    shoot marnus please!

  • Kalabas - 2011-07-22 10:11

    Strange how the words 'death penalty' springs to mind... Recycle his corrupted soul. Jail won't do a thing!

  • photofreak - 2011-07-22 10:14

    I hope this man rots in jail. We are entrusted to protect all these animals, I am disappointed to the very depth of my soul in this excuse of a human. The love of money is the root of all evil.

  • photofreak - 2011-07-22 10:15

    Well done NEWS 24, give Julian a bonus...keep up the good work.

  • PunkBuster - 2011-07-22 10:17

    I'de like to let this guy loose in the bush and then hunt him as he did the rhino's...

  • Sean - 2011-07-22 10:24

    The only way to stop this trade is to take the profit out of it. A legal trade network should be set up and horns removed from living rhino can be sold to the market at low prices. This will staisfy the demand and remove the massive profit that makes poaching and smuggling worthwhile.

      David - 2011-07-22 14:23

      Something better...leave the horns on the Rhino and flood the existing horns seized from poaching laced with poison and sell on the black market. Use the proceeds in the conservation of the Rhino!

  • Kalabas - 2011-07-22 10:25

    Kill the KILLER!!! Okay for you 24? Your policy on diplomacy has a weird kind of stench to it...

  • Alfie123 - 2011-07-22 10:34

    What the heck has colour or race got to do with what this Steyl man is doing? He is enriching himself at the expense of our wildlife heritage - which belongs to each and every African. He should be thrown in jail for life, together with his Asian consorts.

  • Ants - 2011-07-22 10:44

    I would luv to cut off your nose and leave you to ..... whatever - SIES MAN! You have no hart

  • Nicola van den Heever - 2011-07-22 10:51

    shoot him in the head

  • OnlyaGinger - 2011-07-22 11:03

    heres his cell no: feel free to gve him a call! Piece of excrement does not deserve to live Marnus Steyl -083 457 8431 Office- 051 881 1946

  • VELOCITY - 2011-07-22 11:12

    I see this scumbag Steyl is involved with the following crowd; Tam Safaris in Cradock. Peter Tam of Tam Safaris. These guys are in the business of killing the Big Five.

  • dotty_01 - 2011-07-22 11:44

    this is one sick b%stard. may his penis be hacked in the same manner.

  • spikkel - 2011-07-22 12:14

    Cut of his horn!!!

  • astrix1 - 2011-07-22 12:24

    Sent the bastard to me, I need some to do some target practise before my next combat shooting compitition. A running target is just what I need.....

  • Mmoledi - 2011-07-22 12:34

    Those are the most wanted criminals, the one who were all along destroying our wild life and nature by killing our animals for their wealth so let the law deal with them harshly if possible their companies be taken away and licences cancelled and be locked for life.

  • william hallett - 2011-07-22 12:47


  • ChumScrubber - 2011-07-22 12:52

    I recommend the oke gets sent to China as a laboratory "animal". Much more accurate results would be obtained if they used humans for their experiments, criminals like this should be classified as "below animal", and used by our species for our advancement.

  • Ho - 2011-07-22 13:04

    If the allegations prove to be true, then put the scumbag away for no less than 10 years...

  • Joan - 2011-07-22 13:09

    Unfortunately the new students that are learning to be practitioners of the Traditional Chinese Medicine in China and similar fields in other parts of Asia are still being taught that rhino horn will cure ailments of a sexual nature in men and lately even cancer. Until these ideas have been eradicated there will be a demand for rhino horn. Therefore there is money involved which leads to greed and thus people decimating our beautiful rhinos. We need to band together and protect them better and our judicial system show the guilty parties no mercy so that our grandchildren will still see these magnificent creatures in the wild.

  • astrix1 - 2011-07-22 14:58

    Send Marnus Steyl and his Associates to me, I need some target practise for my next combat shooting compitition, a running target will do nicely......

      motsokwane - 2011-07-22 15:01

      post your address and phone numbers, I will certainly do as you wish.

  • PunkBuster - 2011-07-22 15:10

    Editor seriously bud.... Where's my post??????

  • Roy - 2011-07-22 15:20

    If found guilty this oke should get the same treatment that the animals got.Don't think you'll get much for his skin though.

  • virginiagreenwoodwarner - 2011-07-22 15:21

    So disgusting - hope he burns in hell!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1 Cruel stupid ********* Maybe add The observer to the fire as well! obviously also a hunter!!!/murderer!

  • abgush - 2011-07-22 15:48

    Contact them direct... Marnus Steyl + 27 83 (083) 457 8431 Eunice Steyl + 27 83 (083) 4480641 Office + 27 51 (051) 881 1946

  • Lara - 2011-07-22 17:27

    Jail is no good for this bastard and his associates. Why this Government ever allowed Chinese into the financial sector of this country, I dont know? They are sly, devious and are yellow people that do not deserve to even exist. Then you get the stupid dutchman like this bastard in the free state who is allowed. Ten to one the Chinaman will not go to jail either. They should all burn in hell and I would love to do the honours.

  • Beth607 - 2011-07-22 17:53

    What a POS ! Get this trash, Karma !! Of course, I'd also like this ass to be in prison for eternity - hopefully with animal lovers.

  • Marie - 2011-07-22 18:36

    The problem will be that his papers are in order, it is legal to hunt and export rhino products. Nature Conservation should be accompanying on these hunts, then all would be clear and nobody could get away with these types of sleazy hunts.The best would be to write out tenders, have professional hunters pre-approved by an independent body such as Phasa or SA Hunters,and and of course Nature Conservation, and then hold these organisations accountable for the bad apples. That would be a proactive approach.

  • Bravo - 2011-07-22 18:47

    Throw him to the lions!

  • Suzanne - 2011-07-22 20:35

    Well done to the authorities for catching this evil Weasle! You are a shame to your country Steyl!

  • Beth607 - 2011-07-22 21:25

    Wonder how much the parts of you, your wife, your children, your parents are WORTH in the transplant market?

  • thetruth - 2011-07-22 22:06

    ha ha ha ...white man killing the rhino...and they blame the black man....crooks

  • The_Rock - 2011-07-23 09:20

    Feed him to the Lions the scumbag

  • ani_nonimus - 2011-07-23 17:50

    Disgusting! He deserves the death penalty and it should be carried out by Rhino!!

  • Kaltie - 2011-07-23 19:34

    Our society must stop celebrating people for how much money they have, but rather for how they earned it (including ANC characters).

  • Linda - 2011-07-23 20:17


  • Linda - 2011-07-23 20:23


  • Heks - 2011-07-23 20:33

    What a bastaaaaard. I would like to cut off his horn while he is still alive