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Rhino horn theft biggest of its kind in SA

Neo Khanyile

The theft of more than 40 rhino horns from the national parks department in Mpumalanga is the biggest of its kind in the country.

Rhino horns are sold illegally for more than $95 000 per kilogram, higher than the price of gold. (Reuters).

The theft of more than 40 rhino horns from steel safes belonging to the national parks department in Mpumalanga is the biggest of its kind in the country, a police department said.

The thieves "knew where they were going and what they were going to do", Paul Ramaloko, a spokesperson for the Hawks, said. "This is the biggest theft of rhino horn we have ever experienced."

The horns were stolen early on Monday morning, according to the parks department. No arrests have been made.

South Africa is home to 83% of Africa's rhinos and 73% of all wild rhino worldwide. This year, 294 of the animals have been poached compared with a record 1 004 for all of last year. The horns are smuggled to east Asia where they are believed to cure cancer.

Ramaloko declined to estimate the value of the horns. Last year eight horns worth an estimated $650 000 were stolen from a museum in Ireland. Rhino horn sold illegally can fetch as much as R1.003-million per kilogramme.

The horns were stolen from steel safes that were cut open, according to the Lowvelder, a newspaper based in Nelspruit, in Mpumalanga province.

Earlier this month, Vietnamese pop stars Thu Minh and Thanh Bui performed at a game park in the Eastern Cape province to promote the start of a campaign in their country to discourage the purchase of rhino horns from poachers. – Bloomberg

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