South African government official faces charges of involvement in rhino horn trade

A civil servant will appear in a South African court today to face charges of involvement in the

Photo: Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

An official will appear in a South African court today on charges of participating in the illegal trade in rhino horn.

The unnamed official – a government employee with South Africa’s North West Department of Economic Development, Environment, Conservation and Tourism – was arrested along with the owner of a security company on Thursday. The defendants are accused of having illegally transported 17 rhinoceros horns in violation of the conditions of the hunting permit.

Driven by demand for rhino horn, rhino populations in the wild continue to decline due to poaching and trafficking. Between July 2020 and September 2021, South African authorities seized 393 kilograms of rhino horn. Southeast Asia remains the main destination for horns where they are commonly used in traditional medicines.

With around 80% of Africa’s rhino living in South Africa, the survival of critically endangered rhino species will depend on Pretoria’s efforts to enforce existing anti-poaching laws. Furthermore, given that the vast majority of rhino poaching occurs in state-owned game parks, the prosecution of a government official suggests a renewed commitment to tackling the disruptive role of local corruption. Such a commitment is likely to give South Africa more regional clout in terms of its leadership on environmental issues.

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