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S. Africa arrests 11 suspected rhino poachers

Associated Press / September 23, 2010

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JOHANNESBURG — South African police said yesterday that they have arrested 11 suspected members of a major rhinoceros poaching ring that they link to many attacks.

Vish Naidoo, Police spokesman, said the suspects include two veterinarians and a game farmer. He said the 10 were arrested earlier this week and one was taken into custody yesterday after he appeared in court to support the accused.

Game farmer Dawie Groenewald was released on $140,000 bail, which is believed to be the heaviest in the crime’s history. The remaining 10 were released on bail ranging from $700 to $14,000.

Mthunzi Mhaga, prosecution spokesman, said they face charges including assault, defeating the ends of justice, fraud, corruption, malicious injury to property, and illegal possession of weapons and ammunition.

He said the case was postponed until April for further investigation.

Naidoo said 204 rhinos were killed this year alone in South Africa.

“Farmers must take precautions and game security have to be on the lookout,’’ he said.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, rhino poaching has increased dramatically in the last two years because of high demand for rhino horn in Asia, where it is sometimes used for medicinal purposes.

South Africa, which hosts more than 90 percent of the world’s rhino population, has been losing some 20 rhinos per month.

Yesterday’s arrest coincided with World Rhino Day.

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