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Rhino Horn Ring Broken Up by Federal Agents

by Dylan Polk   |  March 6th, 2012 2
Rhino Horn Smuggling

Some of the items seized on "Operation Crash" are displayed by the Department of Justice and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. (Photo by Chuck Bennett/The (Torrance, Calif.) Daily Breeze)

Poaching has taken its toll on the black rhinoceros in recent years, with populations dwindling and pushing the species to the brink of extinction. Luckily, federal agents are doing their part to end the black market sale of the rhino’s parts.

According to The (Springfield, Ill.) State Journal-Register, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents busted a smuggling ring, which reportedly sold rhino horns for up to $25,000 per pound to Asia, where the rhino’s horn is believed to have healing properties.

Called “Operation Crash” — named after a rhino herd, or “crash” — the effort outed smugglers across the country and reportedly confiscated millions of dollars worth of cash, gold, diamonds and even Rolex watches.

“We targeted a species that is in extreme peril, really on the brink of extinction,” said Tim Santel, resident agent in charge with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service based in Springfield. “We took out a full-court press to save this magnificent animal.”

Seven people were arrested within a week, including one suspect who was stopped in a California airport carrying $337,000 in cash. Another suspect, a New York antiques expert named David Hausman, allegedly bought a rhino mount from an undercover officer on Feb. 18 at a truck stop near Peoria, Ill. He was later observed at a motel in Chicago trying to pry the horn off the mount.

The paper reported that search warrants were executed in at least five states by agents from the Fish and Wildlife Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security. Officials said the reason for the effort is the rise in poaching — in 2011, 448 rhinos were killed in South Africa, a record high.

The black rhinoceros is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with an estimated population fewer than 5,000.

Big game hunters were allowed to take rhinos until the 1970s. White rhinoceros populations have risen through the last century, bringing the species back from the brink of extinction. Now listed as “near threatened,” white rhinos are still hunted and trophies may be legally brought back to the United States, but laws forbid the sale of the rhino’s parts, officials said, adding that selling parts of the animal only drives up the demand for its parts.

In Asia, the rhino’s horn is believed to cure a number of ailments, including cancer, and is also used to make dagger handles and ceremonial cups.

  • http://huntingholumstyle.wordpress.com Holum

    Are the Asian "authorities" doing anything to curb this witchcraft non-sense on their side or are they drinking the almighty rhino horn coolaid as well? With today's technology, I can imagine there is a way to produce rhino horn synthetically, right? It is just compacted and modified keratin, the same material that makes up your hair. There is absolutely no evidence based studies to show that rhino horn is beneficial to whatever ailments they claim it cures. The fact that a culture with no rhinos (with horns anyway) is willing to exterminate a species on a different continent for voodoo medicine is angering beyond words.

  • deepsky

    Same sad tale as tiger bones used as aphrodesiac, by the same ignorant asians. I have an idea, lets lace some rhino horns with arsenic, then tell the chi-coms afterwards that an evil spirit has moved into rhinos to kill its enemies.

    Some species of mankind are lower down the food chain than the animals they kill.

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