A small but notable victory in the fight against rhino poaching and the illegal trade in rhino horn: WWF reports that Chumlong Lemtongthai, a Thai national, has been given a sentence of 40 years in jail for trafficking rhino horns from South Africa.
Lemtongthai was convicted of running a crime syndicate which used white rhino trophy hunts as a front to export rhino horn to the black market in Asia. The syndicate used Asian poachers to pose as trophy hunters on South African game farms, where such hunts are legal, and then sell the horns overseas.Since the verdict South Africa has closed the legal loophole allowing such hunts.
WWF notes that 528 rhinos have been killed in South Africa so far this year, a new record. At current rates of poaching, rhinos may be extinct in South Africa by 2015.
The conviction comes just as US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has pledged increased US assistance to stem to growing illegal trade in endangered species.