By Rhishja Cota-Larson
The July 2013 seizure of 24 rhino horns and arrest of 16 suspects in the Czech Republic points yet again to South Africa’s failure to properly monitor its own trophy hunt industry.
The “hunters” were said to have been hired by an “international criminal gang” to legally kill rhinos in South Africa. This is in order to use the CITES permit loophole which allows for the import of “legally” sourced rhino horns into the Czech Republic. Customs officials at Prague’s Václav Havel International Airport became suspicious and contacted the police, according to Radio Prague. Although no names were released due to the ongoing investigation, among those arrested were Czech as well as foreign nationals. The operation was conducted in conjunction with INTERPOL.
South Africa’s trophy hunt industry has been at the center of rhino horn trafficking for quite some time. The first Vietnamese “pseudo-hunt” apparently took place in 2003, and in November 2009, the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC warned in its report ahead of CITES CoP15 that these bogus hunts had already been taking place on “the same game ranches repeatedly”. Meanwhile, several professional hunters were arrested more than once between 2006 and 2010 for rhino crimes:
- Professional hunter Peter Thormahlen was hit with a “token fine” in 2006 for illegally hunting a rhino (on behalf of a Vietnamese client), before he was brought to court again two years later on identical charges. It is worth noting that Thormahlen’s rhino hunts have frequently taken place on Mauricedale Game Reserve.
- Professional hunter Christaan van Wyk had already been twice convicted of rhino horn offenses when he was found guilty of illegally hunting a rhino (also on behalf of his Vietnamese client) in 2010. More....