Maputo — The Mozambican police and customs authorities on Saturday seized 10.5 kilos of rhinoceros horns at Maputo International Airport.
Announcing the seizure to reporters on Monday, the spokesperson for the Maputo City Police command, Orlando Mudumane, said the horns were hidden in an aluminium case, but were discovered during check-in.
The police have not yet been able to identify the owner of the case. “The individual fled, when he realized the police had seized the case”, said Mudumane. “Investigations are under way to discover who owns the case”.
Mudumane did not say which plane the case would have been loaded onto, or what its final destination was.
This seizure comes a week after the Malaysian authorities at Kuala Lumpur airport seized 18 rhino horns, weighing 51.4 kilos, which had come from Mozambique via Doha, on flights of Qatar Airways. These horns were packed in a crate listed as containing “works of art”, and destined for an address in Malaysia which turned out to be false.
This seizure was highly embarrassing for the Mozambican authorities since all items loaded onto flights departing from Maputo airport are supposed to pass through electronic scanners, which should have picked up the presence of 18 rhino horns. That the crate was loaded is a clear indication of collusion by corrupt airport staff with the traffickers.
Since both species of African rhinoceros, the black and the white, are believed to be extinct in southern Mozambique, the 18 horns seized in Kuala Lumpur, and the 10.5 kilos seized kin Maputo on Saturday, most likely came from rhinos poached across the border in South Africa. The seizures are further proof that traffickers in rhino horn are using Mozambique as a transit route to the lucrative Asian market.
The main destination for rhino horn is Vietnam, where rich and credulous individuals believe that powdered rhino horn will cure all kinds of ailments, from hangovers to cancer.