South Africa: 570 Rhinos Killed in 324 Days

As of 20 November, at least 1,569 rhinos have been illegally killed in South Africa since 2007. Image © Annamiticus

South Africa’s rhinos continue to be massacred at a staggering rate, with the death toll reaching at least 570 since the start of 2012, according to the latest figures from the Department of Environmental Affairs.

While the recent sentencing of rhino horn syndicate member Chumlong Lemtongthai to 40 years in prison is most welcome, the withdrawal of charges against Lemtongthai’s South African accomplice, safari operator/game farmer Marnus Steyl, smacks of corruption both within the country’s wildlife industry and the provincial authorities tasked with monitoring hunting activities.

Lemtongthai, Steyl, and another South African hunter, Harry Claassens, were arrested for allegedly using loopholes in the country’s hunting laws to camouflage their illegal operations. In addition, Lemtongthai and Steyl are also believed to be supplying lion bones as a substitute for tiger bones in the illegal market.

Gareth Morgan MP, DA Shadow Minister of Water & Environmental Affairs, says “it is time that officials in the North West Department of Economic Development, Environment, Conservation and Tourism are also held to account for their role in awarding permits for pseudo hunts in 2010 and 2011.”

Government officials were at the start of the chain that resulted in illegally attained horns getting into the hands of Lemtongthai.

It is interesting to note that Lemtongthai’s advocate, Terry Price, was on the defense team for rhino horn syndicate suspects George Fletcher, Gert Saaiman, and Frans Deventer — whose case was thrown out in 2010. Price was also said to be responsible for getting Paris Hilton’s marijuana charges dropped when she was in South Africa for the World Cup.



Rhishja Cota-Larson

I am the founder of Annamiticus, and I work as an independent Wildlife Trade and Communication Design Consultant. I have journeyed to the streets of Hanoi to research the illegal wildlife trade, and to the rainforests of Sumatra and Java to document the world’s rarest rhinos. I am a Co-Chair of the SSN Pangolin Working Group. At CITES meetings, I collaborate with colleagues from around the world to lobby in favor of protecting endangered species. I am a Wildlife Trade and Trafficking Consultant for the upcoming documentary The Price, the host of Behind the Schemes and author of the book Murder, Myths & Medicine. I enjoy desert gardening, herping, reading, designing, and walking with my dogs.