Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa has welcomed the four year sentence of a 24-year-old Chinese national who was found guilty on charges of rhino horn smuggling.
The sentence was handed down last week in the Kempton Park Regional Court.
Shuangshuang Xue was arrested at O R Tambo International Airport en-route from Lusaka, Zambia to Hong Kong, China.
A suitcase that was checked in at baggage counter by the woman contained 14 pieces of rhinoceros horn with a weight of approximately 16 kilograms.
It was intercepted by security screening personnel at the luggage transfer area of the international terminal at OR Tambo International Airport.
"The collaboration between law enforcement officials at the airport, in the investigation and subsequent judicial process, needs to be commended.
"It is only through such continued cooperation and collaboration that the battle against rhino poaching, being undertaken through the Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros Approach, will be won," Minister Molewa said.
The investigation and arrest were the result of collaboration between officials from the South African Police Service (SAPS), Customs division of the South African Revenue Services, security screening companies and Environmental Management Inspectors (EMI's) of the Department of Environmental Affairs, based at OR Tambo International Airport.
The Department of Environmental Affairs said Xue was arrested as there was no permits accompanying the suitcase and its contents.
"The rhinoceros horn were confiscated and handed in at the Forensic Science Laboratory of the SAPS, to determine the origin of the rhinoceros horn or possible linkages with other investigations.
"During genetic profiling it was discovered that the 14 pieces of rhinoceros horn were from the White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum), from five different animals of which were four males and one female. None of the 14 pieces of rhino horn could be linked to any poaching incidents or registered stock pile," the department said.
The National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act No. 10 of 2004) (NEMBA), requires that the original documentation from the country of origin must accompany a consignment.
If there is no such original accompanying documentation, an import permit issued in terms of NEMBA and in accordance with the provisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), is required.