Rhino Poaching in South Africa

Stephen Wiggins Article 17 Comments

Rhino poaching numbers in South Africa dropped slightly in 2015, with 1,175 rhinos slaughtered (826 in Kruger National Park), 317 poachers arrested (a 59% increase from the previous year) and firearms confiscated.

Rhino Horn Poaching in South Africa

Source: TRAFFIC.org, 21 January 2016

On 21 January 2016, South Africa’s Minister for Environment, Edna Molewa announced the above results. Should this be a cause for celebration? Well no, for a number of reasons.

Dowie GroenewaldIn September 2010, Dawie Groenewald (pictured right) was arrested (along with his wife, Sariette, veterinarians Karel Toet and Manie du Plessis, plus a host of “professional hunters“), for his alleged involvement in the illegal rhino horn trade. Shortly after Dawie’s arrest, 20 dehorned rhinos were found in a mass grave on his property (a 10,600 acre farm in Musina, Limpopo Province). However, Dawie and his alleged accomplices are yet to face trial. Dawie Groenewald faces a reported 1,736 (with his syndicate facing 1,872) counts related to illegally selling rhino horn, racketeering, money laundering and fraud:

“allegedly having illegally sold at least 384 rhino horns over a four-year period, having killed more than 39 of his own rhinos for their horns, and illegally dehorning more than 80 others.”

One Hugo Ras was also implicated with Dawie Groenewald. Ras was arrested in August 2011 and charged with illegal possession of a firearm and restricted veterinary drugs (used to sedate and track big game, contravening the Medicine and Related Substance Control Act). It is reported that Ras has a conservation crime record stretching back to 2001. In 2014, Ras was arrested again with 9 accomplices:

The ten (including Ras) accused were “arrested on 19 September in a countrywide operation. They face a total of 318 charges, including the killing of rhino, the sale of rhino horns, intimidation, money laundering and racketeering. A conservative estimate of the 84 illegally obtained horns is said to be around R16 million. The alleged Syndicate’s activities have been described as the ruthless serial killing of rhino” – The Citizen, 29 September 2014

For their ‘activates’ between 2005 and 2010, Dawie Groenewald and his brother, Janneman have been indicted with using their Out of Africa Adventurous Safaris company to organise and promote (at between $3,500 USD and $15,000 USD a time) White rhinoceros hunting trips in South Africa, Botswana, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. No CITES permits (for trading in rhino horn) were obtained by the Groenewald brothers, or anyone else at Out of Africa Adventurous Safaris. The accusation is that the Groenewald brothers ‘duped’ and defrauded hunters, attending Safari Club International  (SCI) conventions etc., where Out of Africa Adventurous Safaris also generously donated a safari to an SCI auction of hunts.

Janneman Groenewald lived in Alabama during this period, where Out of Africa Adventurous Safaris  maintained bank accounts, but eventually faced charges of money laundering by avoiding federal reporting requirements.

Not only did they [the Groenewald brothers ] break South African laws, but they laundered their ill-gotten gains through our banks here in Alabama. We will not allow United States’ citizens to be used as a tool to destroy a species that is virtually harmless to people or other animals” – U.S. Attorney George Beck

Of course, all of Out Of Africa Adventurous Safaris’ hunting was for ‘conservation’ (right), so SCI and its members duly obliged (without any checking for necessary permits needed it seems) and nine ‘hunters’ willingly sought to participate in the illegal hunts, no doubt using the excuse (again) that “I was sure all the paper-work was correct and I was helping conservation……So, I just couldn’t wait to go kill some endangered White rhino” nonsense.

So, with Dawie Groenewald (not forgetting accomplices) yet to face trial in South Africa (6 years after Dawie’s initial arrest), does it sound as if South Africa is actively pursuing the heads of major rhino poaching gangs?

In a 2012 interview detailed in Killing for Profit” by Julian Rademeyer, Dawie Groenewald was confident that he would beat the South African case:

They [the South African prosecutors] will eventually come and say there has been a mistake on a permit here, or something wrong there, let’s sort it all out. Let’s make arrangements for a fine.

I am not a poacher,” he told Rademeyer. “That word makes me sick. It is not necessary for me to poach a rhino.

I don’t enjoy killing rhinos,” he continued. “But I’m killing them because of the system. We are forced to shoot them because that is the only way the trophies can be sold and exported. You have to kill the animal to sell its horns.

He went on to tell Rademeyer that he makes a lot of money from hunting, saying, “For me, to do these hunts is very good money. It is really good money.”

So, for someone that professes to hate poaching and does not enjoy killing rhino, Dawie Groenewald  appears to be deluded, very much a poacher that has ‘enjoyed’ killing rhino, but he chooses to use the excuse of “look what the system made me do to profit from animal exploitation!” No one forced Dawie Groenewald to be a rhino farmer, or rhino hunter of course, there are other ways to make a living I think if one finds ‘legalities’ regarding rhino farming/killing a little too restrictive for one’s needs.

Hugo RasAfter his September 2014 arrest, Hugo Ras (pictured left) is due to go on trial in Petoria (along with brother-in-law Arno Smit, “Rhino Poaching ‘Kingpin’ Leaves Trail of Crime in USA“), 16 September 2016 (delayed again, from July 2016), but we’ll see what happens.

No one seems to know when Dawie Groenewald will finally be put on trial (assuming he ever does get put on trial).

The South African Government is currently seeking to self-approve” rhino horn harvesting (November 2015), which can only appease Dawie Groenewald and his ilk, making the situation worse with regards to poaching, not better. Does that sound like the actions of a responsible government keen to eradicate rhino poaching and restore its tarnished image for ‘animal care’ within its jurisdiction (whilst ‘canned’ farming continues unabated)?

Does South Africa sound like an idyllic holiday destination where its wildlife (including rhinoceros) is revered and protected (or used mainly for profiteering)?

South Africa (as in many other range states) needs to become serious about wildlife crime enforcement and prosecutions, not just talking about it.


  1. Owners of Safari Company Indicted for Illegal Rhino Hunts,” Daily Caller, 25 October 2015
  2. South African Rhino Farmers Killing Their Own Rhinos for Profit,” Annamiticus, 27 July 2012
  3. Rhino Poaching in South Africa,” Born Free Foundation, 22 January 2016
  4. U.S. Indictment Accuses South African Brothers of Trafficking Rhino Horns,” National Geographic, 25 October 2014
  5. Activists for Animals South Africa
  6. Killing for Profit” by Julian Rademeyer, 2012 Zebra Press, EAN: 9781770223349

Further Reading

The Groenewald Criminal Network: Background, Legislative Loopholes and Recommendations,” Hübschle, A. M., 2017 – The Global Observatory of Transnational Criminal Networks


Comments 17

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