Two found with 167 rhino horns in SA

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Colleta Dewa

Johannesburg - South African police on Sunday found believed to have been destined for Asia and nabbed two suspects in a sting operation in the North West province.

The two suspects were arrested on Saturday following a tip-off that there was a vehicle transporting rhino horns.

Police confirmed that it was one of the biggest hauls of rhino horns in the country.

"We arrested them on Saturday in the Hartbeespoort Dam area. They were driving in a vehicle and they were intercepted.  It was an intelligence-driven operation that led to the arrest of the two. They were found in possession of those 167 rhino horns. it is one of biggest hauls,” " said Hawks spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi.

 Police added that the rhino horns are worth a substantial amount of money and were destined for the Southeast Asian markets.

The two suspects Clive John Melville, 57, and Petrus Stephanus Steyn, 61, both from the southern city of Port Elizabeth appeared in court on Monday facing charges of trafficking rhino horn and they will remain in custody until April 26 when they will apply for bail.

Demand for rhino horn is primarily fuelled by consumers in China and Vietnam where traditional medicine practitioners advertise it as a wonder ingredient.

In reality, rhino horn is a nostrum, comprised of little more than keratin, the same protein that makes human hair and fingernails.

A horn can fetch up to $60,000 per kilogramme in Asia, stoking lucrative transnational crime networks that have decimated rhino populations in recent decades.

South Africa, which is home to about 80% of the world’s rhino population, has been hit hardest. In 2018, 769 rhinos were poached in the country and more than 7,100 animals have been killed over the past decade.

The country is also home to the world's largest privately run rhino farms.

In 2017, a leading private rhino breeder John Hume organised an online rhino auction after South Africa’s top court lifted an eight-year moratorium on the domestic trade of rhino horns.

Breeders harvest the horns by tranquilising the animals and cutting them off - a technique they say is humane and wards off poachers.

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