JAIL NOT BAIL: Justice for Rhinos
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Despite 668 rhinos slaughtered in South Africa in 2012, the country's judicial system appears to be unwilling to address the corruption that seems to be rampant inside South Africa's wildlife conservation community.
South Africa's high-profile court case of eleven alleged rhino horn syndicate members, including game farmer Dawie Groenewald, along with veterinarians Karel Toet and Manie du Plessis, was scheduled to begin on April 11th, 2011.It has been postponed yet again.
Among the litany of charges are assault, fraud, corruption, malicious damage to property, illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, and contravention of the National Environmental Biodiversity Act.
Suspects Groenewald, Toet, du Plessis, and eight others were granted bail in September 2010 by the Musina courtís magistrate Errol Luiters. Adding insult to injury, the release date coincided with World Rhino Day, an event to raise awareness about South Africaís rhino killing epidemic.
Groenewald's bail was R1 million (USD $144, 471), but he later arranged a deal and had his bail reduced.
The list of suspected syndicate members is comprised of people from inside South Africa's wildlife conservation community, which sadly, included veterinarians and professional hunters.
Unfortunately, MANY arrests have been made within the South African wildlife conservation community, and most of the suspects have paid relatively small fines and avoided jail time.
- December 2010: An article in Bloomberg noted that South African hunter Peter Thormahlen has had at least two tangles with the law regarding involvement with the illegal rhino horn trade. In the first case, he was said to have paid a "token" fine, and his second case was dismissed.
- October 2010: The criminal trial of safari operators George Fletcher and Gert Saaiman, along with professional hunter Frans van Deventer raised hopes that meaningful legal action would be taken against syndicate crimes. However, the case was thrown out by the North Gauteng High Court (the Stateís star witness was apparently intimidated into not testifying) .
- October 2010: Two KZN Wildlife staff members were arrested at Hlabisa and iMfolozi game reserves, and three KZN wildlife officials were suspended; their disciplinary hearing has been postponed several times.
- February 2011: After killing two rhinos on a legal hunt on a farm in Musina, a pair of Vietnamese nationals were arrested at the Wonderboom Airport in Pretoria when they were found to be in illegal possession of four rhino horns. They had arrived at the airport in a private helicopter belonging to the game farmer. At least one of the smugglers was released on bail.
- January 2011: Wildlife veterinarian Dr. Andre Charles Uys was arrested for illegally removing the horns from 15 rhinos in the Maremani Game Reserve, located in Limpopo Province. Uys was released on R10,000 (US $1,416) bail by the Musina Magistrate's Court and is scheduled to appear again on March 18th.
- January 2011: Mossel Bay hunter Christaan Frederik van Wyk was ordered to pay a fine of R30,000 (US $4,246) for illegally shooting a white rhino. The conviction stemmed from a hunting expedition with a Vietnamese client (Nguyen Tien Hoang) in Leshoka Thabang Game Lodge, on April 27th, 2006.
In November 2010, world-renowned expert in ivory and rhino horn trade, Dr. Esmond Martin was interviewed by Wildlife Direct's Paula Kahumbu about the rhino slaughter in Southern Africa.
Dr. Martin explained that the system of granting bail for rhino-related crimes is indeed a major concern. He pointed out that rhino poaching in Swaziland is a non-bailable offense, and that in Nepal, the forest department - not the court system - administers punishment to rhino poachers.
Listen to the interview here:
In addition to the court system failures, "insiders" from within the South African conservation community are apparently doing the unthinkable: Cashing in on the rhino horn myth.
Take an in-depth look at this disturbing topic:
- Report: Rhino Killings Driven by Private Stokcpiling and Trade Speculation
- Legal Trade in Rhino Horn is An Old Agenda, Not a New Solution
- Are 'Insiders' Intentionally Fueling Demand for Illegal Rhino Horn?
Enough is enough! JAIL NOT BAIL: Justice for Rhinos!