A Chinese man with 10 rhino horns and scores of carved ornaments worth over US$100,000 was arrested in South Africa as he tried to board a flight to Hong Kong, police said on Friday.
The 48-year-old man was detained on Thursday at Johannesburg’s O.R Tambo international airport and will appear in court on Monday on charges of trafficking in rhino horns.
“The suspect claimed to have acquired the rhino horns from Maputo, Mozambique,” police said in a statement.
South Africa is battling a rhino poaching crisis, with nearly 1,200 animals killed for their horns last year.
Most of the animals are poached from the Kruger National Park, which shares parts of its borders with Mozambique.
South African authorities often say poachers who usually use high-calibre weapons to shoot the animals and saw off the horns, come across the border from Mozambique.
Rhino horn is composed mainly of keratin, the same component as in human nails, but the substance is believed in some Asian countries, to have medicinal properties that could cure cancer – as well as being an aphrodisiac — in Vietnam and China.
Although scientifically proven to be false, the belief has fuelled a lucrative illegal trade in rhino horn in Asia.
South Africa is estimated to host around 80 percent or around 20,000, of the world’s rhino population.
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