Insure your car, home and valuables with iWYZE
Rhino horn smugglers are now making very high quality fake horns, allowing unscrupulous hunters to sell the real horns at a huge mark-up to black market dealers for traditional medicine and status symbols.
The fake horns are made with top quality resins and look so authentic that they are almost impossible to distinguish from the real thing, a report presented this week to members of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) says.
The report, presented to the convention’s standing committee in Geneva, says Cites officials have been alerted to the increasing involvement of professional hunters in the illegal rhino horn trade.
“Trophies are exported to hunters after a legal hunt, but once the hunters have received the trophies in their home countries, the original rhino horns are removed from the trophies and replaced with fake horns.”
Cites did not specify in which country the fake horns were being made and sold, but details in the report point to the possible involvement of either American or European hunters in the fake horn scam.
Earlier this year, wildlife investigators in the US arrested several American and Vietnamese nationals in a major bust in several cities across the US following the seizure of numerous rhino horns, some of which were suspected to have originated from legal rhino hunts in SA and other parts of the continent.
There have also been a series of robberies from museums and private collections across Europe over the past two years in which the horns were stolen from mounted rhino head trophies.
“The fake horns were initially made with a mould and were relatively easy to identify, but recent reports from authorities indicate that fake horns encountered lately are made in high-quality resin with a density even higher than that of a real horn.
“This makes visual identification, once fully mounted, extremely difficult.”
But Cites officials have now found a way to smoke out the culprits.
“Fake horns can, however, be identified relatively easily by collecting and burning a small quantity of dust from the horn, which will deliver a distinctive smell indicating that it is not rhinoceros horn.
“In the light of this new trend, it is of extreme importance that Cites parties should have adequate legislation and enforcement controls in place, to prevent horns that are part of legal exported trophies from being used for purposes other than hunting trophies, and to ensure that the trophies remain in possession of their owners.”
Another possible source of the fake horns could be in Vietnam, which has been implicated as the end destination of dozens of SA rhinos shot legally by Vietnamese poachers posing as bona fide trophy hunters.
The report notes that Vietnamese authorities had pledged to conduct a stock-taking exercise to check whether SA rhino trophy horns were still in the possession of Vietnamese hunters.
“It is vital for the authorities in Vietnam to conclude this activity as a matter of urgency and to investigate fully all incidents where trophies are no longer in possession of the hunters. Such follow-up investigations can provide important information on the identity of the driving force behind the trafficking of rhino horn.”
People who no longer had their horn trophies should be able to tell investigators who the horns had be sold to.