By Rhishja Cota-Larson
A Chinese national identified as Xiaja Chen has been sentenced by a South African court to eight years in prison for illegal possession of rhino horns, elephant tusks, and leopard skins. According to Beeld, Chen said he obtained the rhino horns so he could smuggle them to China for his cancer-stricken uncle. (Rhino horn traders market rhino horn as a “cancer treatment” to desperate buyers.)
Chen was arrested in May, along with four accomplices comprised of two Chinese nationals, a Malawian and a South African.
Besides two rhino horns and two elephant tusks, the gang had three leopard skins in their possession. Chen received three years each for rhino horn and ivory, and two years for the skins.
The case against the other suspects is still in progress.
However, it’s not just “outsiders” who are responsible for the demise of South Africa’s wildlife. Game farmers and reserve owners are suspected of killing their own rhinos under the guise of “poaching incidents” and then selling the horns.
Meanwhile, in Kenya, ivory seizures have risen 800 percent since 2007 and Chinese nationals are involved in 90 percent of ivory seizures at the country’s airports.