Vets, hunter in court again

2012-06-19 09:32

Johannesburg - Two veterinarians and a professional hunter are expected to appear in the Pretoria North Regional Court on Tuesday in connection with the wrongful possession and distribution of veterinary drugs commonly used in rhino poaching.

The trio face charges of contravening the Medicines and Related Substances Control Act.

The accused are Dr Douw Grobler, formerly head of the Kruger National Park's wildlife capturing and veterinary services unit, private vet Dr Johannes Gerhardus Kruger, and professional hunter Hugo Ras.

Initially, eight men were arrested between August and November last year. Charges against five were withdrawn in April, sparking outrage from animal rights activists.

The group allegedly supplied a rhino poaching syndicate with tranquillisers. The M99 drug, also called etorphine, was used to dart rhinos to enable the removal of their horns.

Demand for rhino horns in Asian countries, particularly Vietnam, has often been blamed for the poaching in South Africa and other African countries.

Initially, Grobler, Kruger, and Ras were charged together with Dr Buti Chibase, a state vet from Klerksdorp.

In March, they appeared in the Pretoria North Magistrate's Court with four others - Matthys Christoffel Scheepers, Riaal Booysen, Johan Carl Heydenrych, and Christoffel Francois Naud.

Ras was arrested after five crates of the scheduled veterinary medicines were confiscated during a police raid on his home.

In February, Boksburg vet Dr Johan Hendrik Meyer was found guilty of unprofessional conduct after he dispensed 26 bottles of M99.

Meyer was fined R25 000 by the SA Veterinary Council. He was also given a six-month suspension, which was set aside for 10 years on condition that he not commit a similar crime again.