The Thai ‘honeypots’ used to traffic wild animals out of South Africa: Women pose as hunters with licences to slaughter rhinos

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This photograph of a Thai woman sitting on top of a dead rhino with a rifle in hand is a ‘fake hunt’ photo allowing to get away with their illegal , authorities believe.

Authorities say that she is one of the women allegedly hired by a Laotian gang to pose as hunters – who are allowed to kill a limited number of rhinos and keep the horns as trophies – in order to circumvent the law, enabling their wildlife smuggling operations.

The photograph, taken somewhere in South Africa, was released today by the Freeland Foundation who say that authorities and wildlife investigators from several countries have joined forces in an operation aimed at breaking down the animal trading network which connects African wildlife and the Asian market.

‘Fake hunt’ photo: Authorities say that this Thai woman was allegedly hired by a Laotian wildlife trafficking gang to pose as hunters – who are allowed to kill a limited number of rhinos and keep the horns as trophies – in order to circumvent the law

is now worth more than £37,000 a kilo, fetching more on the black market than diamonds and cocaine, leading to a surge of in South Africa to record highs last year. It is particularly sought after in Vietnam.

The New York Times reported that there was strong evidence that a man, who they allege is a linchpin of wildlife trafficking, uses this technique of hiring people to pose with dead rhinos to aid his .

South African authorities said his wildlife trading company in Laos had committed ‘one of the biggest swindles in environmental crime history’ by creating these photographs, according to the New York Times.

Booming trade: A stash of illegal ivory found in Kenya as poaching levels in Africa hit record levels

It is believed that he is linked to Thai national Chumlong Lemtongthai who was sentenced to 40 years in jail by for shipping large quantities of rhino horns to Asia for ‘selfish financial gain’ in November last year.

Chumlong, 44, paid prostitutes $800 for the ‘fake hunt’ photographs which saw them go to game farms and pose next to rhinos killed by others to provide proof the horns were souvenirs.

Judge Prince Manyathi said Chumlong fraudulently obtained hunting permits to kill 26 rhinos and then shipped most of the horns to Asia to sell for a profit.

Chumlong Lemtongthai was sentenced to 40 years jail for shipping large quantities of rhino horns to Asia for ‘selfish financial gain’

‘The shooting was not for trophy hunting. It was for horn trading,’ Manyathi said, adding rhinos were a symbol of the country and continent.

Between October 2010 and May 2011, more than two dozen rhinos were killed on licensed ‘hunts’ arranged by Chumlong. The horns were mounted as trophies and sent to the owner of the wildlife trading company in Laos.

Kenyan officials have also made links from the company to the smuggling of elephant tusks as well.

He has been linked by investigators and government officials in several countries to the illegal trade which has seen the illegal killings of elephants and rhinoceroses in Africa and destruction of other species in Asian jungles.

Rhino horn is just one part of a trade worth an estimated 19 billion US dollars (£12 billion), making it the fourth biggest global illegal trade after narcotics, counterfeiting and human trafficking.

The trade of exotic wildlife has experienced a boom in China and Vietnam because of their increasing wealth.

Poaching has hit record levels in South Africa where, by mid-October, 455 rhinos had been killed illegally. There were 448 in 2011.

Among the reasons for the trade is demand for medicines, consumer goods and the desire to possess exotic pets, hunting trophies and rare plants and animals, the study suggested.

Illegal wildlife trade thrives in places with widespread corruption, weak law enforcement and where rangers, police officers and customs officials are not sufficiently trained or resourced with new tools such as DNA tracing technology.

Rhino horn is now worth more than £37,000 a kilo, fetching more on the black market than diamonds and cocaine. It is particularly sought after in Vietnam

Costly commodity: Rhino horn is now worth more than £37,000 a kilo, fetching more on the black market than diamonds and cocaine. It is particularly sought after in Vietnam

A report by the WWF warned that species with high value to illegal traders had seen dramatic declines in recent years, including forest elephants in parts of the Congo basin, , and Javan rhino.

WWF’s wildlife trade expert Heather Sohl warned the species could face localised extinctions if poaching continued at that level.

She said of the threats to animals such as elephants, rhinos and tigers: ‘These are iconic species, they are being exploited and it’s illegal and should be stopped.’

In February a month-long operation involving police, customs and wildlife officers from Asia, Africa and the U.S. was carried out to dismantle organised wildlife crime syndicates.

Hundreds of arrests were made and an assortment of wildlife specimens were seized including 22 rhino horns and four rhino horn carvings, 6,500kg of elephant ivory, 2,600 live snakes, 10 tiger and seven trophies and 31kg of elephant meat. Fire arms and ammunition was also recovered from the poachers in Operation COBRA, according to Freeland.

Senior Superintendent, Uttam Kumar Karkee, from Nepalese Police said: ‘Operation COBRA has proven itself to be an excellent model for fighting trans-national crime.’

Kenyan officials have also made links from Vixay Keosavang’s wildlife trading company Xaysavang Trading to the smuggling of elephant tusks as well

This article was written by Alex Ward and published by the MailOnline

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Supertrooper

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Maria Manuela Lopes
Maria Manuela Lopes

Shame

Neil Brayshaw
Neil Brayshaw

If there is a loophole in the law, for the rhino's sake, CHANGE THE STUPID LAW. (May also be read as CHANGE THE LAW, STUPID!!!) e.g: "NO! You may NOT have a licence to hunt rhinos. It is no longer permitted!" And, since they are already here, get those young honeypot ladies involved in Thai massage (instead of Rhino massacre) — it's a much more uplifting livelihood!

Mohmeer Reeper

You believe this? There is poaching, but this is animated. You should take note of the fact that your governments sold most of Africa down the river, resulting in a disgusting transformation that you know nothing about. Noting your post on coming out to Africa, it is admirable indeed. The wisdom is questionable given your tone. Because you want to be a hero in a land you know nothing about. You know nothing about the gruesome deaths; you know nothing about this. You know nothing about coping in Africa. It is not an ungrateful post. It's a reality! Because when… Read more »

Beverly Pennington Carter
Beverly Pennington Carter

Repulsive !!

Sue Woolley

this is disgusting…how low will you get to murder animals…this woman is as bad as poachers sickens me to see this.

Doris Charles

This is disgusting what is going on in the world today, animals murders for what, sumption of the tusk in medicinal proprieties.

Peter Sumner

Dunno about charged. Shot maybe.

Gillian Kaspers

The person in the picture should be found,charged! Woman or not! Really is a sickening sight!

Malcolm Wilson

they are ‘wild’ creatures, and we are ‘civilized’ beings, what utter, utter delusional crap we feed ourselves..

Steve Woodhall

Is there no depths to which ‘human’ beings will stoop?

Lorraine Crawford-Beech
Lorraine Crawford-Beech

Sickening! 🙁