Though various tactics have been devised to cut down on poaching in Africa, the trade of elephant and rhino parts remains a persistent problem. Fortunately, a large haul was recently confiscated in South Africa — a feat made possible by a dog named Lizzy.
The BBC reports that a total of 116kg (or 256 lbs) of illegal rhino horn was seized shortly before it would have been smuggled out of the country. The haul of 36 horns and horn fragments is expected to be worth about $1.3 million (£1m). Reportedly, it is the biggest seize in the country in recent years.
#sapsHQ Over 30 pieces of rhino horns worth an estimated R23 million seized at the #ORTIA this morning during an on-going operation into ridding the airport of criminal activities. NP https://t.co/Crn60yp7hS pic.twitter.com/c1Gg3hZPYC
— SA Police Service 🇿🇦 (@SAPoliceService) January 10, 2019
Custom officials at OR Tambo airport, located in Johannesburg, South Africa, found the horns and horn fragments inside eight tightly-packed boxes. They were nestled among everyday items, such as decorations and doormats. In a statement, the South African Revenue Service (Sars) said that the boxes were en route to Dubai.
The discovery of so many intact rhino horns is slightly unusual. Most poachers attempt to smuggle the horns out one-by-one or they break them down into smaller blocks and pellets. According to the BBC, it is not unusual for horns to be ground down into a powder to be used in traditional medicines in China and Vietnam.
The lucrative rhino horn market in Asia is driving up poaching, specifically in south Africa. Between 2007 and 2014, rhino poaching rose by a staggering 9,000%. Furthermore, approximately 1,000 rhinos are estimated to be killed in South Africa each year, according to conservation groups.
While experts continue to search for a solution to poaching, it is heartening to know that dogs like Lizzy are already cracking down on the trade. According to Sars, canines like Lizzy are part of a nationwide initiative to fight smuggling. And every effort helps.
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