8 January 2013

East Africa: Vietnamese Caught Smuggling Rhino Horn

Maputo — Police in Ho Chi Minh city, in Vietnam, arrested a Vietnamese citizen in possession of six rhinoceros horns at Tan Son Nhat International Airport on Sunday.

The horns weighed 16.5 kilos and were seized when officers were alerted by the smell of rotting flesh.

The suspect, Ha Chan Chinh, had just arrived on a fight from Doha, where he had been in transit from a flight of Qatar Airways from Maputo.

Another Vietnamese citizen was arrested at Bangkok airport also on Sunday in possession of six rhino horns weighing 10.6 kilos as he waited to board a flight to the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi. He is thought to have flown from Maputo using Ethiopian Airlines.

The illegal trade in rhino horn has seen Mozambique being used as a transit point. It is likely that the horns came from some of the rhinos that have been slaughtered by poachers in South Africa.

In November, police in the northern Mozambican city of Pemba arrested a Vietnamese citizen in possession of six rhino horns as he was about to board a plane, and in May another Vietnamese national was arrested in the departure lounge at Maputo airport as he waited to board a Kenya Airways flight.

Estimates for the value of rhino horn in Asia vary between 20,000 and 65,000 US dollars a kilo, and the high price explains why rhinos are being gunned down by poachers.

Rhino horn is highly valuable due to its use in traditional medicines in Asia. The medicines are fraudulent, since rhino horn has no curative power whatever. The horn is made of keratin – the same protein found in human hair and fingernails.

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