An international smuggling ring illegally collecting and selling rhino horns was broken up by authorities over the past weekend. Over 150 federal agents raided homes and business in a number of states. Over $1 million in cash, $1 million in gold bars, diamonds and Rolex watches, and 20 rhino horns were confiscated.
In southern California three alleged smugglers were apprehended, and each faces four counts of rhino horn trafficking. These individuals reportedly are Vietnamese-American, which is only relevant because many rhino horns wind up in Vietnam where there is demand due to inaccurate beliefs they have medical value such as curing cancer. Other horns are distributed illegally to China, also to supply people who have very outdated false views rhino horn has some kind of special value. Scientifically, it really has no curative power, because the main ingredient is keratin, the same protein found in human fingernails and hair.
“By taking out this ring of rhino horn traffickers, we have shut down a major source of black market horn and dealt a serious blow to rhino horn smuggling both in the U.S. and globally,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. (Source: Washington Post) Three people living in Texas were also caught, at the Long Beach airport. Only one of them has been jailed though.
Rhino horn can sell for over $20,000 per pound, even though medically it is worthless. Superstitions around it are fueling the destruction of one of the planet’s largest land mammals. In South Africa, over 341 rhinos were illegally killed in 2011, the most ever for that country.
Also in 2011, it was reported the last wild Javan rhino in Vietnam was killed, resulting in the extinction of rhinos there. Wild black rhinos in Western Africa were also driven into extinction recently.
If you ever see online ads selling rhino horn or other endangered animals, it might help catch the criminals to send the link in an email to police.
Image Credit: Staycoolandbegood, Public Domain