Suspects caught with 19 rhino horns get bail.

A game farmer from Limpopo and a Mpumalanga businessman who were arrested after being caught transporting 19 rhino horns in two bakkies have been granted a bail of R50 000 bail each. 52-year-old Dawie Groenewald and 48-year-old Schalk Styen appeared in the Nelspruit Magistrate’s Court last Friday after being arrested on Wednesday.

Hawks spokesperson, Katlego Mogale said the vehicles were impounded and that the men were charged with illegal possession and selling of rhino horns, which have an estimated value of R2.6 million.

“We are investigating to ascertain if the suspects were linked to crimes contravening the Endangered Species Act,” Mogale said.

Groenewald and Steyn had initially appeared before the court on Thursday, but the case was postponed to Friday. They were then granted bail.

Mogale said the two were released on condition that they reported to their local police stations once a week and that they do not communicate with any witnesses. He said Steyn was also instructed to hand over his passport to the investigating officer and that Groenewald had already handed his passport over to the police as part of his bail conditions in another case.  According to Mogale, Groenewald had appeared in court in 2010 and the matter is still pending.

In the last decade, nearly 10 000 rhinos have been lost to poaching. In South Africa alone more than 1 000 rhinos were killed every year between 2013 and 2017.

In 2010, Groenewald and 10 others, including his wife Sariette, were arrested after a 15-month investigation allegedly linking them to an illegal rhino poaching operation that took over four years. More than 10 years later the case continues as Groenewald and his co-accused are out on bail.

They face jointly about 1 736 charges ranging from racketeering, money laundering, illegal hunting of rhino and dealing in rhino horn. In 2014, Groenewald was linked to a Czech rhino poaching syndicate, but he denied any ties. Steyn is the owner of AB Safaris in Mbombela and conducts hunts across the country.

World Wide Fund for Nature spokesperson Jo Shaw has welcomed the arrests and said that the arrests are applauded as an excellent example.

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