Game farmer jailed for rhino horns

2012-03-14 10:21

Polokwane - A Limpopo game farmer has been sentenced to an effective eight years in prison for his involvement in rhino poaching, and has also been ordered to pay the Green Scorpions R1m.

Jacques Els, 39, from Thabazimbi, is also in danger of having his assets seized.

Fellow accused, Maremani game farm manager Tommy Fourie, committed suicide.

Magistrate Pat Cloete granted Els R300 000 bail pending an application for leave to appeal.

No rhino killed

During sentencing, Cloete said he had read in newspapers of all the rhinos that had been killed in Limpopo last week.

“It is taking on astronomical proportions. It has to be stopped.”

State prosecutor André Weideman told the Makhado Magistrate's Court that the case was exceptional because Els was not involved in the killing of any rhino.

He broke the Limpopo environmental law, which did not allow for trading, possession and transport of rhino horn without permits.

Not one of the rhino whose horns were found in Els’s possession had been killed. The animals had been sedated and their horns were cut off.

The Green Scorpions arrested Els in October 2010. He had bought 30 rhino horns from Fourie for R760 000. Fourie had cut off the horns.

Fourie was nabbed in September 2010 and appeared in court with Els. He committed suicide in November 2010.

On Tuesday, Els was sentenced to 10 years, two of which were suspended, for the illegal possession of 30 rhino horns.

He was also sentenced to four years for the illegal possession of another eight horns of his own rhino. He wanted to sell them without permits. This was suspended for five years.

Green Scorpions

On this charge, Cloete ordered that Els paid R1m in instalments of R100 000 a month to the National Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit, also called the Green Scorpions.

Els’s legal team immediately applied for bail, which was paid on Tuesday afternoon.

The State also asked the court for the national prosecuting authority’s asset forfeiture unit to be given permission to seize Els’s property.

He will appear in court again on July 2.

  • phathuchicos - 2012-03-14 10:29

    We South Africans are busy blaming Chinese for this rhino massacres while we are not cleaning house do you expect the chinese to stop when people who are supposed to protect those rhinos are busy killing them underground while playing innocent.

      Vaal-Donkie - 2012-03-14 10:31

      Who do you think he is selling those horns to?

      richard.hipkin - 2012-03-14 10:49

      The-Azanian, I agree as the police slowly infiltrate the syndicates it turns out that it's our own bloody people doing the killing... And it appears to be Afrikaans farmers too! And no I am not generalising, look at the farmers in Pongola who were caught red handed..

      Bigrp - 2012-03-14 10:55

      What do you mean with "Afrikaans farmers"?

      Gavin - 2012-03-14 10:57

      If there was no market, there'd be no rhino's killed genius. Yes, we have people killing rhino's here in SA and yes, they need to be caught and severely punished. However, if your asian countries would just wake up to the fact that a rhino horn will not give you a f'ing horn and use viagra instead, we'd make a giant leap in saving these beautiful creatures !!!

      RapidRiver - 2012-03-14 10:58

      He broke the Limpopo environmental law, which did not allow for trading, possession and transport of rhino horn without permits. Not one of the rhino whose horns were found in Els’s possession had been killed. Just let him pay the fine .......he didnt kill anything !

      Michael - 2012-03-14 11:14

      @RapidRiver for a moment I thought I would back you on this one, but NO. Considering that he enhances the rhino horn market it is enough that he deserve that punishment. Once the market exists it open gates for any form of acquiring and supplying the horns, including killing innocent animals. My grandchildren may grow up reading about rhinos as if they are what dinosaurs are to us today.

      Graham - 2012-03-14 11:17

      These people disgust me - how dare they de-horn the national heritage..

      RapidRiver - 2012-03-14 11:32

      @Boy George aka Point Blank ..... He rose to heaven after 40 days....Georgie The initial verses of Acts support that Jesus died on the cross, then rose from the dead before the ascension into heaven occurred on the 40th day after Jesus reported resurrection. Consider the verses in Acts that support this viewpoint.

      Moi - 2012-03-14 11:52

      @rapidriver - ???? wrong article perhaps??

      richard.hipkin - 2012-03-14 11:52

      @Bigrp, "Farmers Ewart Potgieter, 34, from Louwsburg, and Riaan Vermaak, 32, from Newcastle, were arrested on March 4 after police set a trap for them, Beeld reported on Tuesday." Couple this with the other persons arrested recently, all Afrikaners...

      richard.hipkin - 2012-03-14 11:57

      @idrp, also, "Dr Karel Toet and his wife, Marisa, were arrested early on Monday morning. Dr Manie du Plessis, one of Toet's partners, was also arrested." See, a little research and you could've answered yourself..

      Jacqui - 2012-03-14 12:06

      Man grow up. If the Chinese and their bloody medicine don't use Rhino horn as a special ingredient who do you think this sorry excuse for a human being would have sold it to. Or do you think he wanted to hang them on his mantel piece?.

      Deon - 2012-03-14 12:57

      I am with RapidRiver, he broke the law by not having his permits. Most people would agree not to allow any trading in Rhino horns but as long as you have permits you can. Elephant trunks trade are another story and completely against the law.

      Marion - 2012-03-14 13:04

      @PointBlank - I was raised a Potgieter but I was not raised in an Afrikaans household. Their surnames do not automatically indicate that they are Afrikaners, only of Afrikaner stock somewhere along the line.

      RapidRiver - 2012-03-14 13:12

      Bcos of the sudden increase in rhino poaching and the obvious public out cry this guy is being made an example of.....One shud wonder if he wud have received the same punishment if the situation wud have been otherwise.

      Hugh - 2012-03-14 13:18

      Rhino poaching infuriates me, but R1Mil fine and 8 years? Im not sure about that.Get less for murder.

      Schmee - 2012-03-14 13:25

      @RapidRiver the answer is no. Others have been caught literally red-handed (with blood) in the past and made to pay a small fine. Magistrates are finally getting the message, we have to get harsh or the poaching will just continue. @PointBlank, what are you on about? Should I also pull the race card and say the only reason this guy got such a harsh sentence is because he is white?

      richard.hipkin - 2012-03-14 15:59

      @Schmee, if you want to but that would just be in retaliation and lacking in any fact. Also, I never played the race card... *sigh* @Marion, sorry but those names are hardly English speaking people... Come on, let's not get defensive, there is a problem and needs addressing. Instead of accepting it everyone hides behind insecurities and denial..

      Inez - 2012-03-15 15:11

      wake up man, its all over even in the SAN parks,those who are ment to protect are the biggest killers,, yes i agree u get less for RAPE OF BABIES and murder of old people

      Peter - 2012-03-16 14:59

      But this oke and his accomplice did not kill any rhino. A serious offence, but nothing like poaching. Too harsh a sentence - the guy seems more of a conservationist than anything else. Just got a bit greedy. At least his hornless rhino's are safe. (or were, until his arrest)

  • GTR2 - 2012-03-14 10:32

    Cut off his horn!!!!!

      Mike - 2012-03-14 11:26

      Babba will give him lots of horn when he gets to Jail

  • Deon - 2012-03-14 10:33

    The lack of permits sank him, not very clever.

      Deon - 2012-03-14 10:55

      He killed no Rhino's as admitted by the prosecutor. Trading in Rhino horns with permits are allowed.

      cosmos.ndebele - 2012-03-14 11:30

      Deon u ar very sick u need help very fast!!!! U ar backing trade in Rhino horns?

      Deon - 2012-03-14 11:54

      Legal trading in Rhino horns are allowed and regulated by local gov.

      richard.hipkin - 2012-03-14 12:08

      Deon, the horns were not even legal... *sigh* ... They were removed from the rhino illegally, period. He is a criminal.

      Antipoaching - 2012-03-14 12:46

      @ Deon, how does one begin to get you to see sense. I dont give a damn whether he poached or not, whether the rhino lived or died, were sedated or not! Go to the Kariega Game Reserve page and see what poachers like this did to 3 of their rhino, 2 of which survived BUT are horribly mutilated... Survival of the rhino should not ever ever ever be viewed as a mitigating factor! Watch this video of what was done to the Kariega rhino, if you dare:

      Schmee - 2012-03-14 13:13

      As much as I don't like it either, what Deon is saying is true. Until such time as they make possession and trade illegal, with other words you cannot get a permit, this will be an area of contention.

  • Lynda - 2012-03-14 10:35

    Greed greed greedy greedy fat cat.......look at you!!

  • Jannie - 2012-03-14 10:40


  • kuvaniap - 2012-03-14 10:41

    8 YEARS ONLY??? they should lock him up and throw away the keys

  • Arthur - 2012-03-14 10:48

    Well done judge! A game farmer dealing in rhino horn is like a cop committing crime, or a doctor taking advantage of a patient, or a priest abusing a youngster. They are trusted to know and do better so sentences when the bums are caught need to be more severe than normal.

  • Gavin - 2012-03-14 11:03

    This sentence is not harsh enough - you need to send a message to these poacher scum that this crimes attracts very harsh sentences. We should name and shame these wastes of space, seize their assets and destroy their lives. They feel nothing when killing a rhino, why should we feel anything for them ??

      Deon - 2012-03-14 11:18

      He was not the poacher in this case.

      Moi - 2012-03-14 11:54

      yes, he wasn't the poacher, but by illegally trading rhino horn, he is encouraging the poachers to kill more rhino. Therefore in my eyes, he is just as guilty as the poacher.

      richard.hipkin - 2012-03-14 12:08

      Deon, let me drum this into your skull... He was in possession of illegally obtained rhino horn, whether or not he didn't poach them is irrelevant. The horns in his possession are point blank illegal. They were stolen, hacked off the rhino without permission..

      Marion - 2012-03-14 13:08

      @Deon, so by your reasoning if he was caught with 30 uncut diamonds (for which permits are required) he would be not guilty because he never stole the diamonds from the mine?

      cliffmias - 2012-03-14 17:38

      Gavin, about the act against the rhino, that is the sadest story, and the real criminals are the end users who create a demand, the end users create oportunity for the different levels of poachers, we have all seen how brutal some of the poachers are, they hack off horns and leave the poor animal to bleed to death. Then there are the ones who sedate the rhino and do it neatly and in that way are actually saving the rhino's lives after-all the horns are in great demand and they will be hunted regardless.The judge is acting more on the emotions from the public outcry in this completely out of control animal cruelty which is disgusting to say the least, but now some of the comments you read makes me wonder who are worse, some comments are just, and others are similar to the poachers who hack off and show no mercy, violence begets violence, we should be crying for the sin of this world cos this is what we are creating for our children. Agreeing with a sentance that doesn't fit the crime is the same as the poacher with no mercy.

  • Renate - 2012-03-14 11:07

    I have no idea why there has to be any arguments regarding this issue, what happened here as well as the sentence is great. the justice system is waking up

  • Elize - 2012-03-14 11:07

    White afrikaans trash, you are a disgrace to us white afrikaans people!! 8 years?? what a disgrace!!!!

      Vaal-Donkie - 2012-03-14 11:31

      Was it his appearance and culture that made him do this, or his lust for money?

      cosmos.ndebele - 2012-03-14 11:33

      Disgrace to everybody,his race aside!!!

  • Simone - 2012-03-14 11:17

    Shoot the bastard and remove his horn!!

  • louis.langenhoven - 2012-03-14 11:27


  • cliffmias - 2012-03-14 11:44

    any support to this act against the Rhino,whether its poaching trading or purchasing is a shame,its a shame that the biggest oportunities available to make money comes largely from societies needs in lust. Is this what our society is craving? maybe if we revisited our moral behavior there would be less of a demand for rhino horn. people judge the supply chain criminals. but the oportunity would not exist without the demand.

  • Zimbobwe - 2012-03-14 11:48

    "Not one of the rhino whose horns were found in Els’s possession had been killed. The animals had been sedated and their horns were cut off." So the law says if I sedate you and steal your possesion it's okay because I didn't kill you. WTF this bloody agent should have the book thrown at him fckn kort broek!!! He should spent more time in jail and have his rubbish inside his trousers l!cked and his @ss poked!!!

      Garth - 2012-03-14 12:05

      `have his rubbish inside his trousers l!cked and his @ss poked!!!' - you are one very strange individual and a useless racist to boot!

      cliffmias - 2012-03-14 17:10

      your is paragraph was good, you should know when to quit zimbobwe

  • Zing - 2012-03-14 12:04

    I think this is harsh. I'm not against trading rhino-horn, I'm against poaching and killing rhino for their horns. What Els has done is to save at least 30 rhino from being killed. I'm sorry he got caught, and I believe his sentence is unfair and unjust.

      richard.hipkin - 2012-03-14 12:12

      The rhino horn he had in his possession were illegal. He committed a crime, I bet if this was anyone else you would be baying for blood?

      Schmee - 2012-03-14 13:05

      Pointblank what do you mean by "if this wasn anyone else"?

      Zing - 2012-03-14 13:15

      I don't deny he committed a crime. I'm sorry he got caught. In my opinion he's a kind of hero that saved 30 rhinos from being killed. (Even though I don't think that was his intention) That shouldn't be so hard to understand. He managed to save the rhinos that the law you prescribe to could not. If he wasn't caught, he'd be out there saving more rhinos' lives. What do you mean by "I bet if this was anyone else you would be baying for blood?"?

      richard.hipkin - 2012-03-14 16:03

      @Schmee and Zing (holy crap that sounds funny), don't act dumb you know very well if this had been oh let's say a black person that you would not use this reasoning? Just saying, I have been on these comments sections for too long to see the two face nature of commenters here..

      Zing - 2012-03-14 21:03

      @Pointblank - I knew what you meant but was too dumbfounded that you would actually just up and out and say it. Firstly; That's off-topic and I think you're just trawling for comments. Secondly; If you're looking for a racist in my comments, you won't find it. Go look behind your own door - hypocrite!

  • Jacqui - 2012-03-14 12:10

    Only eight years. I hope he isn't going to be paroled after two for good behaviour.

  • Zimbobwe - 2012-03-14 12:19

    @Garth the truth shall sets you free why select the last past??? Don't you agree with the first part???

  • ettienne.hattingh - 2012-03-14 12:44

    Cut his hands off and let him bleed. Bastard.

      Charl Heydenrych - 2012-03-14 20:23

      Legalise the trade of Rhino horn. It will bring down prices and make illegal trade less profitable.

  • Marion - 2012-03-14 13:01

    Am I the only one confused by this statement: Els’s legal team immediately applied for bail, which was paid on Tuesday afternoon. I thought that if you were sentenced it was 'Go to jail, do not get bail'. One very rich farmer!! R100 000 per month??

      cliffmias - 2012-03-14 17:07

      His biggest mistake is admitting his guilt, handing himself over making it easy for the judge to crucify him, the judge had to give him that sentance to make an example of this act where-as the real criminal would deny everything and get away scot free cos there are always loop holes.His punishment is very harsh there should have been at the very least some compasion shown for his remorse and the fact that he was not one of those that brutaly hacked off the horn leaving the animal to suffer or die, where are those people???????, they will never be brought to book. Then society's demands for rhino horn should be addressed

  • Gmale - 2012-03-14 13:15


  • Mtshezi Yonk'insipho Iyawasha Mkhize - 2012-03-14 16:01

    All in the name of money hey, Ain't it a root of all evil??? May we never fall for the same trap n only engage in legally acceptable business dealings!!!!

  • Daan - 2012-03-14 16:11


  • Charl Heydenrych - 2012-03-14 20:25

    It seems like he has done nothing wrong apart from breaking a nonsensical law. Legalise the trade of rhino horns.

      Zing - 2012-03-15 07:41

      +1 Finally someone with reason!

  • Erin - 2012-03-16 10:10

    This breaks my heart. Ok great so all the Rhinos in question are alive minus their horn, but what about the trauma these animals are faced with? Because they weren't killed, it pardons his actions? Not a chance... This just encourages everything we stand against in terms of saving our White Rhino... He shouldn't be allowed to walk away from this. This is certainly not going to solve the problem but keeping him behind bars and him a like is a start.

  • Helen - 2012-03-16 10:30

    Now Cloete sounds like an intelligent judge. Until the Law makes provision for harsher sentences for inhumanity against animals, there's not much that can be done. Strong men should find the perps and deal with them in a suitable manner - cutting off appendages.

  • alexis.kriel - 2013-01-16 17:55

    Zero tolerance. Time's up for anyone trading in rhino horn. Since, at this point, the status quo is that it's illegal to trade in rhino horn - This sentence wasn't harsh enough. If we are going with "no trade", then let's make sure it works. On the ground policing, vigilance from sars and customs, strong sentencing. Way to go.

  • steven.walker.58760 - 2013-01-17 08:01

    Give me the means and I will clean up the rhino mess, Just need a few rounds, I am sick and tired of the mamby pamby way we deal with crime, white ,black or whatever,shoot them and make it brutal and public and see the results, Saudi does it and they dont have to many problems.we need to be as brutal as the crime.

  • andre.dejager.106 - 2013-01-17 12:45

    Does not matter if they are black or white,or pink or green,fact is these bastards are doing illegal things and need to be sorted out,and if this does not happen,we are going to loose all our wild rhino and our grand children will only see pictures of what they used to look like.They must do here as they do in Botswana shoot to kill ,then ask questions later,not one rhino lost in Botswana for the past few years.

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