The Kruger National Park's anti-poaching task team is investigating possible links between the poaching of rhino in the world-renowned nature reserve and a consignment of horns that customs officials in Hong Kong recently confiscated.
A source who has intimate knowledge of the task team's investigations, who declined to be named, said the breakthrough involving the confiscation of 83kg of rhino horn, was the result of better relations between eastern Asian countries and South African authorities.
"It is enlightening that their authorities are beginning to understand the seriousness of the rhino war we are fighting here," the source said.
According to Albi Modise, Department of Environmental Affairs spokesperson, the consignment was intercepted when customs officials at Hong Kong International Airport x-rayed a container of vehicle spares.
This followed a tip-off an undercover agent gave authorities.
Information uncovered during the raid indicated that the consignment of horns was destined for Malaysia.
"Hong Kong customs have indicated that this is the single largest haul of endangered species products they confiscated in the last five years," Modise said.
The black-market value of the confiscated horns is estimated to be R29m.
Modise says that while the department was delighted by the bust, it was concerning that customs officials did not detect and confiscated the illegal products in South Africa before they left the country.
He said there needed to be an urgent review of measures in place at customs to detect smuggle goods and disrupt the operations of international smuggling syndicates.
The war against rhino poachers is slowly seeing results but costs authorities millions of rand a year.
Last year, 769 rhino were killed. It was the first time since 2012 that less than 1 000 rhino per year were poached.