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Rhino horn trade: Govt urged to shift focus

A high ranking North Korean diplomat was recalled after being arrested for rhino horn trafficking.

Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - South African law enforcement has been called on to focus more on international rhino horn trafficking kingpins.

A high ranking North Korean diplomat has been recalled after being arrested for rhino horn trafficking in Mozambique.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) yesterday confirmed that the official is no longer a diplomat after being arrested in May.

The department says it cannot confirm who the official is, but says the man has returned to North Korea.

Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) CEO Yolan Friedmann says while it is good that some form of action is being taken against the diplomat, there does appear to have been a cover up.

"When we find that people further up the chains are directly involved in the alleged trafficking of horns outside the country, we become quite alarmed that there'd be an attempt to keep this away from the public."

She says more needs to be done to track and stop the vast amount of horn in transit in and out of the country rather than focussing solely on stopping the local poachers.

"There needs to be a much stronger focus brought upon individuals that may have the incentive to be involved in trafficking as well as the means to potentially get away with it."

Friedmann says it's clear that diplomats have been involved in the illicit trade and more pressure must be placed on governments to bring them to book.

Meanwhile, the South African Revenue Service (Sars) says its customs officials have handed over two rhino horns worth R3 million to the Department of Agriculture for further investigation.

The horns were confiscated at OR Tambo International Airport on Tuesday.

It's unclear where the horns were destined for.

Sars spokesperson Sandile Memela says no arrests have been made so far.

"No one has been arrested, but in terms of procedure the horns have been confiscated and handed over for further investigation."

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