The Smuggling Route For South African Rhino Horn

by Horatio Vonnik

The killing of the world's endangered rhinoceros has increased at a rate of 50% in only 5 years. It takes only 48 hours for smuggling syndicates to get rhino horn from the time of the kill, out of South Africa and into Asian markets.

With rhino horn now more valuable on the market than gold, platinum or cocaine, South Africa is fighting a losing battle against fast increasing rhino poaching, and therefore also the extinction of the rhinoceros.

One single rhino horn can be worth to a smuggler the equivalent of between US$350,000 to $400,000. This has led to the rhinoceros in South Africa being killed at a rate of one to two per day. An entire animal is killed but only the horn is brutally removed and taken.

Rhino which had its horn brutally removed by poachers

South Africa is the main target of rhino poachers, as 80 % of Africa's rhino population is at home here.

Poachers have become increasingly sophisticated and dangerous, and can shoot and dehorn a rhino in only 10 minutes. The aim is then to smuggle the horn out of the country in only 48 hours.

Horns may be smuggled out via the O.R. Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg International Airport). Toothpaste or shampoo may be used to mask the scent. Horns may be cut up into smaller pieces and hidden inside other objects, or be hidden in bigger statues.

Horns poached in the Kruger National Park are usually first taken to Mozambique where it is transported by airplane via Maputo, or by ship via Beira.

Horns may be distributed to Hong Kong, Thailand or Laos. The main destination for rhino horns though is Vietnam.

Having arrived in Vietnam, a network of smuggle dealers take care of the sale of rhino horn.

Rhino horn is a much sought after ingredient of traditional medicine in Vietnam. In addition it's also a status symbol for the rich.