Organized criminal gangs behind rhino horn processing in South Africa

Stephen Wiggins Studies 2 Comments

Banner Image courtesy of Mark Boulton – Lewa Conservancy, Kenya

A TRAFFIC report released 18 September 2017, “reveals disturbing new evidence that some criminal networks of Chinese origin operating in South Africa are now processing rhino horn locally into beads, bracelets, bangles and powder to evade detection and provide ready-made products to consumers in Asia, mainly in Viet Nam and China.


How is a South African ‘domestic’ trade in rhino horn going to ‘compete’ and not in reality supplement the incumbent illicit networks that have flourished within South Africa, which South African law enforcement have (so far) failed to detect and deter?

The domestic manufacture of rhino horn products by criminal networks in Southern Africa is likely to pose significant challenges to already over-stretched law enforcement efforts along the illicit supply chain from Africa to Asia,” said Julian Rademeyer, a Project Leader with TRAFFIC.

Pendants_Powder and Pathways

Pendants, Powder and Pathways,” TRAFFIC, 18 September 2017

“A rapid assessment of smuggling routes and techniques used in the illicit trade in African rhino horn” 


Criminal syndicates are resilient, adaptive and adept at exploiting law enforcement weaknesses and legal loopholes to smuggle rhino horn across multiple countries and legal jurisdictions. As law enforcement efforts intensify, routes and smuggling methods become increasingly diversified and complex.”

“This assessment provides an overview of some of the innovative techniques that rhino horn traffickers have used to avoid interception. There is worrying new evidence that some Chinese criminal syndicates operating in South Africa have begun processing rhino horn into “disks”, beads and powder to evade detection and interception. If the practice becomes more widespread, it will pose significant challenges to already overstretched law enforcement agencies.”


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