Investigators Searching for ‘Mass Grave’ of Rhinos on Poaching Suspect’s Property

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Investigators believe several rhino carcasses were disposed of on a farm near Musina.


Forensic investigators are searching for rhino carcasses on the 4,000-hectare farm named Pragtig, owned by alleged rhino crime syndicate member Dawie Groenewald.

South African media has reported that Groenewald was purchasing close to a hundred rhinos per year. However, investigators say he was not able to account for many of the animals.

Rhino crime syndicate members out on bail

On Wednesday, September 22, Groenewald was one of eleven suspected members of a rhino crime syndicate granted bail by the Musina court’s magistrate Errol Luiters.

The decision has led to global outrage, especially since the decision was made on World Rhino Day.

Veterinarians and professional hunters are among the accused syndicate members:

  • Dawie Groenewald – Out of Africa Adventurous Safaris in Polokwane
  • Sariette Groenewald – Out of Africa Adventurous Safaris in Polokwane
  • Tielman Erasmus – professional hunter
  • Dr. Karel Toet – Nylstroom animal clinic and Limpopo Wildlife
  • Marisa Toet – Nylstroom animal clinic and Limpopo Wildlife
  • Dr. Manie du Plessis – Nylstroom animal clinic
  • Marthinus Pronk
  • Dewald Gouws
  • Leon van der Merwe
  • Paul Matomela
  • Nordus Rossouw

The accused are facing hundreds of charges, including assault, fraud, corruption, malicious damage to property, illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, and contravening the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act.

The suspected rhino crime syndicate members are schedule to appear in court again on April 11th, 2011.

Lucrative Asian market for illegal rhino horn

Rhino poaching has returned to South Africa with a vengeance. The scourge has reached a 16-year high, with more than 600 rhinos killed since 2005.

Although rhino horn has been proven to have no medicinal properties, it is still in high demand in China and Vietnam.

The wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC found that most rhino horn leaving southern Africa is destined for China and Vietnam.


Sources: Independent Online and Eyewitness News

Image: istock.com

Rhishja Cota-Larson

I am the founder of Annamiticus, an educational nonprofit organization which provides news and information about wildlife crime and endangered species. I am the Editor of Rhino Horn is Not Medicine and Project Pangolin, author of the book Murder, Myths & Medicine, a writer for the environmental news blog Planetsave, the host of Behind the Schemes, and Producer for the upcoming documentary The Price. When I'm not blogging about the illegal wildlife trade, I enjoy gardening, reading, designing, and rocking out to live music.

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