Rhino horn smuggler sentenced to 40 years in prison in South Africa

November 11 – Just two days ago, WWF reported that a man charged with illegal trading of rhino horns in South Africa was pleaded guilty for this felony and sentenced to 40 years behind the bars by the Johannesburg’s Kempton Park Magistrate’s Court.

Rhino horn trader sentenced to 40 years in prison

Rhino horn trader sentenced to 40 years in prison © zmescience.com

This is the harshest sentence given for a wildlife crime in the country to-date.

Chumlong Lemtongthai, a Thai national, was accused for running syndicate which used white rhino trophy hunts as a cover to illegally export rhino horns to Asian black market for commercial use. The syndicate used Asian poachers who pretended to be trophy hunters on South African game farms where trophy hunts are legal, and then sell the horns abroad. Since the verdict South African Government updated its legislation closing the legal loophole allowing such hunts.

During trial, Lemtongthai apologized for his actions saying, “I humbly apologise to the court and to the people of South Africa for my role in this matter. I appreciate that the emotions of all animal lovers in South Africa are running very high and that I was part of the problem.”

Conservationists were more than happy with this decision, some of them hoping this arrest will be only one in many future legal activities to stop illegal rhino trafficking and to protect this endangered species, despite the fact that Lemtongthai’s co-accused (three South African and two other Asian nationals) were not pleaded guilty.

“It is so important that all those involved in rhino crimes receive sentences which match the severity of their actions to form an effective deterrent to others”, said Dr Jo Shaw, Rhino Co-ordinator for WWF-South Africa (WWF-SA), applauding  law enforcement agencies for the successful arrest, prosecution and sentencing of Chumlong Lemtongthai.

“These higher-level arrests and convictions are critical to disrupting the illegal trade chains used to move rhino horns into illicit markets in Asia”, he said.

Furthermore, WWF notes that 528 rhinos have been killed in South Africa so far this year which is a new record.

Source: WWF