The value is not in the trophy,
but what is mounted on the trophy.
Rhino horns are valuable.
And even though rhinos are an endangered species, South Africa does allow officially-sanctioned rhino hunts.
So a group of criminals figured out a way to fake the official hunts.
However, one member of a syndicate blew the whistle on them, which led to arrests.
Here's how it worked: A wildlife trader in South Africa would buy live rhinos at auctions or from private owners, then move them to a farm.
He would call his connection, Mr. Chemlong Lemtongthai, and say he had so many animals ready for a "hunt" and he needed a corresponding number of "hunters."
The other man would enlist his friends, or get Thai women who were working as strippers or prostitutes to pose as hunters. (The sex workers were provided by a woman who was wanted in Thailand for human trafficking.)
To get the hunting permits, the fake hunters were fingerprinted and their passports checked. Then they were taken to the farm and met a professional hunter, who would:
"...show them the rifle and even take the girls to a quiet spot where they could let off one or two shots so that they can later say that they have at least fired the weapon."An official, who likely received a kickback, would witness the fake hunt.
After the rhino was "hunted", the official would measure the rhino horn, scan the microchip inside the rhino, and enter details in a hunting registry.
The rhino's body was chopped up and the meat sold for sausages and burgers.
The horn was taken to a taxidermist, who would mount the rhino horn as a hunting trophy.
The trophy would leave South Africa as a trophy and arrive in Asia, where the horn would be ground up and used in traditional Asian medicine.
Rhino horn is thought by some to be a miracle cure, especially for cancer, and demand has increased, even though, as Dr. Raj Amin at the Zoological Society of London has said:
“There is no evidence at all that any constituent of rhino horn has any medical property. Medically, it’s the same as if you were chewing your own nails.”It was reported that Mr. Lemtongthai, who oversaw the killing of 40 rhinos, sold the rhino horns for $55,000 a kilogram, or about $25,000 a pound.
- Poachers, prostitutes and profit, Mail & Guardian, South Africa>>
- Scientific studies conclude rhino horn is worthless as a remedy, Rhino Conservation>>