Two Mozambican men have been sentenced to 12 years in prison for rhino poaching in Limpopo, South Africa.
Hlengani Reckson Mathebula, 49, and Erick Mathebula, 37, were arrested after a shoot out broke out between a gang of poachers and Kruger National Park rangers.
During the shoot out on 12 February 2013, three poachers were killed but the Mathebulas managed to escape, only to be arrested later on each carrying a fresh rhino horn.
Also this week, a Texas man pleaded guilty in a smuggling operation that dealt in nearly $1 million worth of rhino horns and elephant ivory.
Between 2009 and 2013, Qiu purchased and smuggled to Hong Kong at least five raw rhinoceros horns weighing at least 20 pounds. He is now facing 25 months in prison and a $150,000 fine.
Ning Qiu was one of many arrested under ‘Operation Crash’, a US Fish and Wildlife Service investigation addressing all aspects of U.S. involvement in the black market rhino horn trade.
Almost 20 people have been arrested so far. Charges filed against these defendants include conspiracy, smuggling, money laundering, tax evasion, bribery, and making false documents as well as violations of the Endangered Species Act and Lacey Act.
“The multibillion-dollar illegal wildlife market is supplied by animal poaching of unthinkable brutality and fed by those willing to profit from such cruelty,” U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said.
“I am pleased that the Eastern District of Texas could be a part of the ‘Operation Crash’ investigation as well as the guilty plea today, and I congratulate the investigative team for a job well done,” U.S. Attorney John Malcolm Bales of the Eastern District of Texas said.
“The criminal activity undertaken by the defendant in this case is a stark reminder that this matter is not about serving Asian cultural and medicinal practices; it’s about greed, organized crime and the depletion of a species that – without our focused efforts to fight this trade – may not be around for our children to see.”