By Rhishja Cota-Larson
Law enforcement authorities in South Africa say that game farmers and reserve owners are killing their own rhinos and selling the horns. Those involved in the profit-making scheme have either attempted to conceal the killings or pretended to be victims of “poaching incidents”, according to IOL/Cape Times.
The public revelation does not come as a surprise, as this has long been speculated upon privately by close observers of South Africa’s rhino crisis.
A source apparently gave the Cape Times five names, which included Dawie Groenewald and Hugo Ras.
Groenewald is perhaps best known for being arrested in September 2010 (along with his wife Sariette, veterinarians Karel Toet and Manie du Plessis, and professional hunters) for his alleged involvement in the illegal rhino horn trade. Shortly after Groenewald’s arrest, 20 dehorned rhinos were found in a mass grave on his property.
Ras was arrested in August 2011 and charged with illegal possession of a firearm and scheduled veterinary drugs. Ras has a conservation crime record which stretches back to at least 2001.
Both Groenewald and Ras are currently out on bail, awaiting their next court appearances.
South African Hunters and Game Conservation Association’s deputy president, Gerhard Verdoorn, also told the Cape Times that he knew of “a suspicious case in KwaZulu-Natal where a game farm owner did not want police to investigate the dehorning of one of his rhinos and had warned his staff members not to talk about the incident”.
However, it’s not only South Africa’s private rhino owners who are willing to profit from the deaths of the animals they claim to be “conserving”.
In 2010, JJ “Kobus” van der Westhuizen (owner of Letsatsi La Africa) told Carte Blanche that he was granted CITES permits to euthanize 20 lions so he could sell their bones.