S.Africa seeks DNA of rhino horns seized in Hong Kong

16th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

South Africa will send a team of experts to Hong Kong to take DNA samples of rhino horns seized by customs authorities from a container shipped from the country, officials said on Wednesday.

According to the environment department, the samples would be checked against a genetic database to determine if the animals were poached from South African game reserves.

"The department is in the process of obtaining permission for sampling from the Chinese authorities," it said in a statement.

On Tuesday Hong Kong customs officers intercepted a record haul of 33 rhino horns, 758 ivory chopsticks and 127 bracelets hidden inside a container shipped from South Africa.

The haul worth a total of about HK$17.4 million ($2.2 million) was found in a container declared as holding "scrap plastic".

"The latest seizure is an example of the increased cooperation between the People's Republic of China and South Africa," said department spokesman Albi Modise.

This follows a September meeting between officials to discuss issues relating to international conventions on endangered species and law enforcement between the two countries, he said.

Since January, a record of 366 rhinos have been poached in South Africa, up from 13 in 2007.

Officials blame the poaching surge on organised crime syndicates selling horns for use in Asian medicinal treatments, where it is believed to cure cancer.

In July, South Africa and China agreed to strengthen a cooperation agreement on wildlife trafficking.

Several Chinese and Vietnamese nationals have been convicted for rhino poaching in South Africa.

© 2011 AFP

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