Vietnamese rhino horn smuggler nicked in South Africa

A South African rhino mutilated by poachers for its horn.

The man was caught by customs officers in possession of about $466,000 worth of rhino horn.

Customs officials in South Africa arrested a Vietnamese man at O.R. Tambo International Airport outside Johannesburg on Wednesday for attempting to smuggle 28.7 kilograms (63.3 pounds) of rhino horn, according to local media outlet News24.

The horns, with an estimated value of ZAR6 million ($466,000), were spotted by a scanner when the man was trying to check in.

Read – The Vietnamese crime family at the centre of Asia’s animal trafficking network

“South African Revenue Services (SARS) officials found five rhino horns that had been coated with between one and two centimeters of hard wax and wrapped in newspaper. The wax was obviously used to disguise the horns from the canine unit’s sniffer dogs,” News24 quoted SARS spokesperson Sandile Memela as saying.

The man will appear at Kempton Park Magistrate’s Court, according to a spokesperson for South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation.

While South Africa’s Constitutional Court has lifted a ban on domestic sales of rhino horn, a global ban regulated by a U.N. convention remains in place, which means horn acquired legally in South Africa cannot be exported.

The sale and purchase of rhino horn is also banned in Vietnam, although the country remains one of the biggest consumers of the critically endangered animal.

Animal conservationists say rhinos are being poached in South Africa at a rate of one animal every eight hours to meet global demand, mostly in China and Vietnam.

Vietnam has developed an appetite for rhino horn on the back of economic expansion, with many people believing it can cure cancer, a myth conservation groups have scoffed at. Vietnam’s last Javan rhino, a rare Southeast Asian species, was found dead in 2010 with its horn hacked off.

Backed by the government, public awareness campaigns have helped discourage the trade, and prices have fallen in recent times. – VNExpress

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