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S.Africa seizes $1.7-mln worth of rhino horn bound for Dubai

South African customs officials said Thursday they had seized 36 rhino horns valued at about $1.7 million, bound for Dubai, at the international airport in Johannesburg.

Sniffer dogs detected something suspicious the previous day in eight bubble-wrapped boxes labelled as containing “decorative items” in a holding warehouse for outbound cargo.

On closer inspection, police found horns weighing 116 kilogrammes (256 pounds), individually wrapped.

South Africa is battling a scourge of rhino poaching fuelled by insatiable demand for horn in Asia where it is believed to cure cancer and boost virility — claims for which there is no scientific proof.

Rhino horn is composed mainly of keratin, the same substance that makes up human nails, and it is normally sold in powdered form.

The demand has placed Africa at the epicentre of a global poaching and trafficking crisis.

In the last eight years alone, roughly a quarter of the world population of rhinos has been killed in South Africa, home to 80 percent of the remaining animals.

The country lost 1,028 rhino to poaching in 2017.