The case of two men arrested for allegedly smuggling 180 rhino horn, weighing a total of 150kg, was postponed for a bail application on Tuesday.
The two were allegedly smuggling the rhino horn to the far east.
Petrus Stephanus Steyn, 61 and Clive John Melville, 57, appeared in the Brits Magistrate’s Court on Monday for charges of illegal trade in rhino horn.
The Department of Environmental Affairs has welcomed the arrests, saying without the co-operation and collaboration of the general public, South Africa would not be able to win the battle against rhino poaching and the smuggling of rhino horn.
The men were arrested near Hartbeespoort Dam in the North West province during an operation, involving members of the Hawks Serious Organised Crime Endangered Species Unit, Special Task Force, Tracker SA and Vision Tactical.
The arrest took place after a tip-off that a vehicle from a coastal province was carrying a considerable amount of horn.
According to Environmental Affairs spokesperson Albi Modise, the rhino horn were allegedly destined for the South East Asian market.
“Although the domestic trade in rhino horn is legal when the necessary permits in terms of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act have been obtained, the international commercial trade of rhinoceros horn is prohibited in terms of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora,” Modise said.
Demand for rhino horn is primarily fuelled by consumers in China and Vietnam where it is advertised by some traditional medicine practitioners as a wonder ingredient, AP reported on Sunday.
In reality, rhino horn is a nostrum, comprised of little more than keratin – the same protein that makes human hair and fingernails.
Nonetheless, horn can fetch up to $60 000/kg in Asia, boosting lucrative transnational crime networks that have destroyed rhino populations in recent decades.
South Africa, which is home to about 80% of the world’s rhino population, has been hit most severely. In 2018, 769 rhinos were poached in South Africa alone. More than 7 100 animals have been killed over the past ten years.