Rhino Horns Worth $16 Million Stolen in S. Africa

Pam WrightLife

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This is not the kind of story you want to hear on Earth Day.

However, according to a press release, more than 40 rhino horns worth millions of dollars were stolen over the weekend from a safe at a state tourism organization building in South Africa.

According to Lowvelder newspaper, the horns were discovered missing from the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) early Monday morning local time.

"The culprit, or culprits, cut open two steel safes fitted with double locks," a source from the agency said.

Dex Kotze – conservationist, CEO of South African jeweller Jenna Clifford and an advocate for the protection of rhinos – said the horns could be worth as much as $16 million.

According to MTPO CEO Jacques Modipane, the stolen pieces – weighing more than 176 pounds – came from dehorning operations conducted by the agency. The horns are kept in the MTPA storage for registration purposes before being moved to another secure location where most of the stock is kept.

The pieces kept on the MTPA premises are micro-chipped, DNA-sampled and photographed before moving to the other facility.

“At MTPA we take this matter seriously and want to indicate that we will leave no stone unturned until this matter is resolved,” said Modipane.

The poaching of rhino horns is very serious and on the rise in South Africa – home to 20,000 rhinos, which is 70 to 80 percent of the world's total rhino population.

The rhinos are often killed with semi-automatic weapons and left to die after the removal of the sought-after horns, which are used extensively in parts of Asia, especially Vietnam, as a component in traditional medicine to combat cancer and enhance virility.

Here's an interesting graph about the poaching industry. $1 Million South African rands is equivalent to around $95,000 U.S. dollars.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Pam Wright