Two Vietnamese men have been arrested in South Africa after they were found in possession of 41 kg of rhino horns, the largest amount ever seized the country.
The two men, their haul believed to originate from South African parks, were due to fly to Hanoi from the capital of neighbouring Mozambique but were arrested during a stop-over in Johannesberg, according to a police statement.
Rhino populations across the southern African continent are being decimated by poaching.
Over 1,000 rhinos were killed in South Africa in 2013, its worst ever year for poaching. It has been nearly as bad these past 12 months, with 933 rhinos killed.
The country is home to an estimated 20,000 rhinos, more than anywhere else.
Animals in decline
Animals in decline
1/8 Harbour seal (Phoca vitulina)
Where: Orkney Islands. What: Between 2001-2006, numbers in Orkney declined by 40 per cent. Why: epidemics of the phocine distemper virus are thought to have caused major declines, but the killing of seals in the Moray Firth to protect salmon farms may have an impact.
2/8 African lion (Panthera leo)
Where: Ghana. What: In Ghana’s Mole National Park, lion numbers have declined by more than 90 per cent in 40 years. Why: local conflicts are thought to have contributed to the slaughter of lions and are a worrying example of the status of the animal in Western and Central Africa.
3/8 Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)
Where: Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Costa Rica. What: Numbers are down in both the Atlantic and Pacific. It declined by 95 per cent between 1989-2002 in Costa Rica. Why: mainly due to them being caught as bycatch, but they’ve also been affected by local developments.
4/8 Wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans)
Where: South Atlantic. What: A rapid decline. One population, from Bird Island, South Georgia, declined by 50 per cent between 1972-2010, according to the British Antarctic Survey. Why: being caught in various commercial longline fisheries.
5/8 Saiga Antelope (Saiga tatarica)
Where: Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan. What: fall in populations has been dramatic. In the early 1990s numbers were over a million, but are now estimated to be around 50,000. Why: the break up of the former USSR led to uncontrolled hunting. Increased rural poverty means the species is hunted for its meat
6/8 Swordfish (Xiphias gladius)
Where: found worldwide in tropical, subtropical and temperate seas. Why: at risk from overfishing and as a target in recreational fishing. A significant number of swordfish are also caught by illegal driftnet fisheries in the Mediterranean
7/8 Argali Sheep (Ovis mammon)
Where: Central and Southern Asian mountains,usually at 3,000-5,000 metres altitude. Why: domesticated herds of sheep competing for grazing grounds. Over-hunting and poaching.
8/8 Humphead Wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus)
Where: the Indo-Pacific, from the Red Sea to South Africa and to the Tuamoto Islands (Polynesia), north to the Ryukyu Islands (south-west Japan), and south to New Caledonia. Why: Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing and trading of the species
Last month the death of a northern white rhino in Kenya left the species on the verge of extinction, with only six left in the world.
Wildlife campaigners from Action4Elephants said it is possible that rhinos and elephants could become extinct in the next 20 years if the poaching trade is not effectively cracked down on.
Like the men arrested in Johannesberg, many of those in the trade come from Asia, particularly Vietnam, where it is believed that the horns can be used for medicinal purposes - treating diseases such as cancer.
Last month a year-long public information initiative in Vietnam claimed to have helped the country's demand for rhino horns by 38 per cent.
Additional reporting by agenciesReuse content