Friday, 27 April 2012

Repeated delays plague landmark rhino poaching case

Safari operators and vet poaching ring case postponed again
April 2012. The case against suspected rhino poaching kingpin Dawie Groenewald, his wife and their alleged co-conspirators has suffered yet another lengthy delay. The defendants appeared in a South African court on 24th April where their request for an additional postponement was approved. 

The eleven suspects are expected to be charged with hundreds, or even thousands of criminal counts, including illegal hunting, weapons and permit violations, illegally trading rhino horn, as well as fraud, racketeering and money laundering.

"A high level of criminal sophistication was required to orchestrate the killing of these rhinos, but this case demonstrates that no one is above the law, said the head of WWF's African Rhino Programme, Dr Joseph Okori. "The world is watching and waiting for justice to be served." 

Carcasses of 20 rhinos
The carcasses of 20 rhinos were found buried on Groenewald's property in late 2010. The rhinos were missing their horns, which are of high value on black markets in Asia, particularly Vietnam.
Groenewald and his wife operate a safari tour company and according to investigators, they are said to be the masterminds behind the killings. Other suspects in the case include veterinarians and veterinary assistants, professional hunters and a helicopter pilot.
"WWF is as impatient as the majority of the public about the delays in the process but we respect that justice has to follow its course," said WWF-South Africa CEO Morné du Plessis. "We will continue to watch this case closely."
The next hearing has been scheduled for October 19.
181 rhinos killed in 2012 so far
Rhino poaching in South Africa has spiked in recent years driven by demand for rhino horn in Asia. So far this year 181 rhinos have been killed in the country, according to government statistics released last week. Officials say that popular safari destination Kruger National Park has already lost 111 rhinos this year.
If not curbed, poaching rates could exceed the record 448 rhino deaths that occurred in South Africa in 2011.

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