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Texan arrested in South Africa after police say they found 26 rhino carcasses on his ranch

Derek Lewitton of Texas is facing charges related to wildlife trafficking, firearms and alleged possession of rhinoceros horns

Katie Hawkinson
Saturday 30 December 2023 18:41 GMT
Rhinos threatened by poachers

South African authorities have arrested a US national after police say they discovered more than 20 rhinoceros carcasses at his ranch.

Derek Lewitton of Texas was arrested on 22 December after they raided his ranch and found 26 rhinoceros carcasses along with 10 unmarked rhinoceros horns, ABC News reports. Police also said they found seven illegal firearms and ammunition, according to the outlet.

“From the helicopter the place looked like a slaughterhouse,” Provincial Commissioner of Police Major General Jan Scheepers told ABC News when describing the scene. “Everywhere you looked, rhinos were lying there dead.”

Authorities told ABC News they will continue to search the property.

In addition to wildlife trafficking and firearms charges, police have also charged Mr Lewitton under South Africa’s National Environmental Management Act for his alleged possession of the rhinoceros horns, per ABC News.

Mr Lewitton founded and operates a rhinoceros reserve in South Africa with his wife, Xenja Lewitton.

“The family is responsible for hundreds of rhino on thousands of acres of wild African land – and has been driving change within the current conservation arena by helping governments and private reserves separate the true legal frameworks governing the potential trade in rhino horn from the misconceptions that currently block such trade,” the organization’s website reads.

The Independent has contacted the South African Police Department, Black Rock Rhino and a member of the Lewitton family for comment.

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