On Tuesday, the Hawks’ Serious Organised Crime Investigation unit caught a suspicious traveller at the O.R Tambo International Airport with 30kg of rhino horns.
Suspect caught with rhino horns at O.R Tambo
According to police spokesperson, Captain Ndivhumo Mulamu, the suspect was arrested before he could board his flight to the Middle East.
“The Hawks’ Serious Organised Crime Investigation apprehended the suspect at OR Tambo International Airport on Tuesday whilst he was reportedly travelling to the United Arab Emirates (UAE),” Captain Mulamu confirmed.
Suspected dealer due in court
At this point, authorities are treating the suspect as an alleged dealer.
“He was arrested immediately and will be facing charges of possession of rhino horns and contravention of Section 57 of the National Environmental Management-Biodiversity (Nemba) Act.” the police said.
The trading of horn is illegal in South Africa. This is in line with the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) regulations.
Therefore, a conviction on the charges could see the suspect spend anywhere between 15 to 40 years in prison.
“The suspect is expected to appear before the Kempton Park Magistrate’s Court on Thursday, for alleged illegal possession of rhino horns valued at a substantial amount of money,” he said
The large demand for rhino horn in black market
South Africa has had to double down on its efforts to protect the endangered species since its horns are a well-sought-after commodity in the black market.
Based on the Asian market’s 2018 black market prices, The Conversation calculated that for a kilogram of rhino horns, sellers can get R933 929 ($65 000).
Using this figure (which may fluctuate based on currency behaviour), we can estimate that the 30kg seized by the Hawks is worth R28-million in the black market.