Nick Giurelo, Foreign Brief | October 11, 2021
A public official will today appear before a South African court to answer to charges of participation in the illegal trade of rhinoceros horns.
The unnamed official—a government employee of 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 unlawfully conveying 17 rhino horns in violation of game permit conditions.
Driven by demand for rhino horns, 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 horns. Southeast Asia remains the primary destination for the horns where they are commonly used in traditional medicines.
With approximately 80% of Africa’s rhinos inhabiting South Africa, the survival of critically endangered species of rhinoceros will depend upon Pretoria’s efforts to enforce existing anti-poaching laws. Further, since the vast majority of rhino poaching occurs in state-owned game parks the prosecution of a government official suggests a renewed commitment to addressing the hindering role of local corruption. Such a commitment is likely to give South Africa more regional clout with regard to its leadership on environmental issues.