Posts Tagged With: US Fish and Wildlife

Poaching Kingpin in America

Notorious rhino poaching ringleader Dawie Groenewald along with his brother Janneman Groenewald have been indicted in the U.S. on multiple charges surrounding rhino poaching.


The men have been charged with “conspiracy to sell illegal rhinoceros hunts in South Africa in order to defraud American hunters, money laundering and secretly trafficking in rhino horns”.

Dawie, with his wife in Musina court. Photo: Brendan Croft

Dawie, with his wife in Musina court. Photo: Brendan Croft

Dawie used his safari company, Out of Africa Adventurous Safaris to conduct the hunts.

According to the 18-count indictment, from 2005 to 2010, the Groenewald brothers travelled throughout the United States to attend hunting conventions and gun shows where they sold outfitting services and accommodations to American hunters to be conducted at their ranch in Mussina, South Africa. During the time Janneman lived in Alabama, where Out of Africa maintained bank accounts, and is accused of money laundering and structuring deposits to avoid federal reporting requirements. -US Department of Justice

The Groenewalds essentially sold the rhinos without permits, under the guise they were “problem rhinos” and were very “dangerous and aggressive”. Although the trophies could not be imported back into the US, the hunters were allowed to pose with the bodies and were told the hunt could count toward their hunting “status” in record books.

After the photos were taken, Dawie would then cut off the horns with a chainsaw and sell them on the black market, earning profit from both the hunt and the horn sale.

The Lacey Act

It is a U.S. conservation law that prohibits trade in illegal wildlife. This law is far-reaching, one of the broadest and most comprehensive forces in the federal arsenal to combat wildlife crime. It is under this law, where a vast amount of charges come against the Groenewalds.

rhino on dawie game farm photo taurai maduna ewn

Rhino on Groenewald’s farm, where he claims he was “forced to shoot them because that is the only way the trophies can be sold and exported. You have to kill the animal to sell its horns.”

South Africa

The “Groenewald Gang”, including Dawie and 9 others were arrested in 2010 on a variety of similar charges to that of the US. Dawie himself, remains free, has 1500 charges against him, and has killed more than 15 rhinos. The case has been repeatedly postponed, with the current date being set for August of 2015.

The South African authorities have given “substantial cooperation” to the US investigation. As far as the extradition request, SA states “such assistance will be provided”. It is unclear when this will happen.

American hunters involvement

The hunters who paid between $3,500 and $15,000 for the illegal rhino hunts, are not being brought up on charges. They were cooperative with authorities on their involvement with the safari outfitter, and essentially were misled. They believed there were appropriate hunting permits in place, and that the rhinos were “problematic” animals.

Director of US Fish and Wildlife Services, Daniel Ashe Photo: AP/Brynn Anderson

Director of US Fish and Wildlife Services, Daniel Ashe Photo: AP/Brynn Anderson

“Frankly these hunters should have known better. All hunters should consider this a warning that when they are involved in an overseas hunt for any species, they should make sure that the hunt that they are considering is offered by a reputable guide service operating in a country certified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as managing its wildlife responsibly and sustainably,” said Dan Ashe, director of US Fish and Wildlife Services

So is this the end of the Groenewald gang? And perhaps more importantly, will this send a strong message to trophy hunting groups like Safari Club International?

“We are literally fighting for the survival of a species today.  In that fight, we will do all we can to prosecute those who traffic in rhino horns and sell rhino hunts to Americans in violation of foreign law,” said Sam Hirsch, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division.  “This case should send a warning shot to outfitters and hunters that the sale of illegal hunts in the U.S. will be vigorously prosecuted regardless of where the hunt takes place.”

american flag rhino

American trophy hunters displaying patriotic pride in slaughtering Africa’s endangered wildlife.









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How Does the US Tackle Rhino Poaching?

How does the US combat rhino poaching:

Operation Crash

Working under the US Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS),  150 law enforcement officers were recruited to tackle all aspects of U.S. involvement in the black market rhino horn trade. They have infiltrated the undercover horn smuggling ring and since 2012 have netted 15 arrests and 7 convictions throughout the country.

Most recently as part of Operation Crash, the owner of a Chinese antique shop and ringleader of a horn smuggling conspiracy was sentenced in New Jersey.  The man was given 70 months in prison for wildlife trafficking. Although not seemingly long enough, it was of the longest ever imposed in the United States for a wildlife smuggling offense.

“As this case clearly demonstrates, rhino trafficking is increasingly organized, well financed and a threat to the rule of law. The United States is resolved to bring wildlife traffickers to justice, ” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Hirsch

In addition to coordinating sting operations, the USFWS recently officially listed the white rhino as a threatened species. This is a crucial action, as it closes a huge loophole in trafficking of all rhino horns. (see previous post: US Closes Loophole in Horn Trafficking)

obama rhino



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America: Land of the Free, Home of the Arrogant

rhino with US flag

Saving the rhino in Africa, from China and Vietnam is a familiar scenario. But another disturbing piece of the equation lies within the US. American hunters have long been drawn to the thrill of “big game”, hunting down rhino, elephant and lion in Africa.

Recently the US Fish and Wildlife Services set a new precedent, giving permission to a hunter to bring back his rhino kill from Africa. This has not been allowed for 30 years. Opening the door to wealthy Americans to slaughter endangered species in the wild for trophies is a dangerous trend to start.

Of course it takes two to tango. Shame on the Namibian government for allowing the hunt, and shame on US Fish and Wildlife for encouraging  the hunter with incentive to keep the trophy.

According to Fish and Wildlife, “The Service cannot and will not allow the importation of sport-hunted trophies of species protected under the Endangered Species Act unless a comprehensive review determines that those trophies are taken as part of a well-managed conservation program that enhances the long-term survival of the species.”

What is well-managed? It seems if any of us had well-managed a species, they wouldn’t be endangered. And what  is the point of cartoon trophy huntrecognizing and labeling a species as threatened, vulnerable or endangered if we’re going to allow them to be hunted down? Is it because if they seem more rare, the price tag on their heads rises, and in the end both governments make more money?

Pro-hunting groups will have you believe by paying to hunt a species, the funds go toward saving them, therefore making conservation sense. However, in this particular case Namibia made $175,000 for their “conservation fund” which in reality is a general fund used for multiple purposes, including rural development; hardly a benefit to the rhino.

However to satiate American hunters’ needs to “bag the big one”, they can also kill endangered species closer to home.  In Texas alone, there are 500 ranches that in recent years have switched from raising cattle to the multi-million dollar industry of “exotic hunting”. There are species here thriving in Texas, that are almost extinct in Africa (i.e three species of endangered antelope and Grevy’s Zebra). Yet they survive only to be killed.

Not only is it illogical and seemingly unethical to breed endangered species simply to exterminate them, but the other part of the issue is the method of the hunt. Many of these hunts are canned hunts, which some within the hunting community even see as unethical.  (See previous post: Shooting Fish in a Barrel)

Endangered animals need protection. Not just from the country they’re in, not in a ‘save by killing’ method, there are no exceptions. They need to be encouraged to breed, given space to do it in, and given the every chance to survive.

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