Activist rhino farmer arrested: 26 decomposing bodies of rhinos on his farm

An image of an activist arrested in South Africa has been relaunched by Saving the Wild

Arrest Hollywood style sa helicopter descended from the sky and a dozen police cars descended on the crime scene after being reported, forever marking the aura an activist for the protection of African rhinos OF Derek Lewistona very wealthy 53-year-old American who is known in the conservation world for his theories about ethical trade in rhino horn as a way to fight poaching.

After surrounding a ranch that an American had opened in the area Limpopo on the occasion of his transfer to South Africawith a degree from the University of Texas and a juris doctorate from Stanford University in California, agents took him into custody to identify 26 bodies of rhinos in a state of decomposition.

Additionally, they were kept in the ranch safe 10 intact rhino horns, without any documentation confirming their origin as required by South African law. The arrest was the culmination of an “intense 16-hour investigation at Harmony Farm,” according to local authorities.

The English edition of Metro carried the words of Major General Jan Scheepers “From the helicopter, the place looked like a slaughterhouse and everywhere I looked there were dead rhinoceroses. We found 26 bodies, but I can tell you there will be many more for sure. Some were shot and others died of natural causes and we are still investigating how they died.”

Rhino horns seized from Derek Lewitton’s farm (from Metro UK)

Derek Lewitton, a controversial figure due to his stances on the ethical trade in rhino horns, opened his rhino breeding farm in South Africa in 2016 with the support of his South African wife Xenia. He started with her and breeding of black rhinosconsidered endangered, with the belief that by removing and then legally selling the horns of farmed rhinos, which grow back naturally after being safely cut, poaching would have no reason to exist or would in any case be greatly endangered.

However, a very wealthy landowner has also repeatedly stated that «without a legal trade in rhino horns, it is very difficult to finance the protection of rhinos. Decoration animals safely, and well regulated business ethical corners in the Far East would help fund sanctuaries, reduce prices and make poaching less attractive.”

The economic element undoubtedly has a decisive role in any consideration of the conservation of this iconic animal on the African continent, but dangerously in the balance of survival. Rhino horn is actually valued higher $65,000 per kilo: in practice, a large horn could issue up to half a million dollars. According to the WWF, the global turnover that revolves around the horns of this animal can reach almost 200 million dollars.

From this perspective, Derek Lewitton’s views align with those who argue that liberalizing the rhino horn trade by safely cutting off captive rhinos and allowing them to grow naturally would solve the problem by putting large quantities of horn on the market at a controlled price and ultimately reducing the potential of the illegal market, and thus the poaching that drives it.

Rhino surgery (thanks to Black Rock Rhino by Derek Lewitton)

While it is clear that the issue of a market of such economic importance being entirely entrusted to private individuals, and at the same time the ethical implications of yet another large-scale initiative in the area of ​​animal exploitation, still need to be further explored. To give numbers, it is best to refer to what WWF: «The southern white rhinoceros is the largest and least endangered species with approx 16,000 specimens in the wild, of which 93% are in South Africa. Unfortunately, the northern rhinoceros has been extinct in the wild since 2018. Del Black rhinoceroswhich has a more aggressive nature than the white rhinoceros, are today estimated at approx 6000 specimens in nature».

However, the positions of the controversial naturalized South African American activist and especially the activities of his farm have not always found the trust of those involved in nature conservation in Africa. Among these Jamie Josephfounder Saving the wilderness who spoke openly about the incident. “Congratulations to the police for the arrest of American Derek Lewitton, who practically turned his rhino farm in South Africa into a slaughterhouse – he wrote in a public post on Instagram on his personal page and on the page of an association that has been engaged in the fight against poaching for years. by directly attacking the criminal infiltration of institutions that favor the exploitation of wild animals in African territory – Saving the Wild has been on the radar for some time and we are most concerned that farmers can legally raise rhinos on such a small piece of land. It was obvious to so many people around Lewitton Farm in Limpopo Province a container full of hungry rhinos it was there to serve a sinister purpose.’

However, Lewitton enthusiastically praises the possibilities on his showrhino breeding linked to the legal sale of their horns. While the number of rhinos in state reserves has fallen by 90% in the past 10 years, the families that keep them safe in private reserves have more than tripled their rhino population, from the 3,000 they protected 10 years ago to around 10,500 .rhinoceros – states on its website. – About half of South Africa’s rhino population, 4,000 black rhinos and 16,000 white rhinos, live in private game reserves where it costs money to protect them. owners millions of pounds a year. If we can continue this good work, in another 10 years South Africa will have over 20,000 white rhinos roaming freely, even if the government loses all 2,000 rhinos it still has in its care. If the government accepted help from private conservationists and adopted the same practices, the total number of white rhinos in South Africa could approach 26,000 in ten years. That’s more white rhinos than have existed on Earth in the last 150 years.”

Jamie Joseph from the Saving the Wild survey with a ranger (from the Saving the Wild website)

But Lewitton was accused of violating the Firearms ActThe National Biodiversity Act of 2004 and law of Nemba the Biodiversity Conservation Act of 2010, which includes restricted activities with rhino horn specimens. According to Limpopo police spokesperson Hulani Mashaba, in fact «about 26 rhino carcasses not reported were found on the property along with 10 rhinoceros horns in a farm safe. In addition, seven illegally acquired firearms and hundreds of ammunition were also confiscated. Judges then refused the arrested activist bail because by law whenever a rhino dies, its death must be reported to the South African police and Department of Nature Protection who must remove the horn and because of the 17 horns found on the ranch only 7 were properly documented while the other 10 had no documentation confirming their origin.

Derek Lewitton is certainly not the first case a billionaire rhino breeder in South Africa. There are many farms that breed these animals, which are free in the wild in great difficulty. Among these Platinum Rhino OF John Hume born precisely to reproduce southern white rhinoceros but failed last year due to approx 425 thousand dollars per month of farm maintenance costs, more than half just for security measures, which included some helicopters.

That is why he bought the huge farm, which was in economic collapse, together with his two thousand rhinoceroses last SeptemberAfrican parksthe NGO he manages 22 parks in 12 African countries and which has taken on a huge commitment to transform it into a sanctuary with the ultimate goal of reintroducing the specimens currently held in captivity in the reserve back into the wild. Even in Hume’s case, however, the idea of ​​creating a farm was related acquire potential offers the legal sale of rhino horns. From 200 specimens at the beginning of the initiative, it actually reached about 2,000 southern white rhinos until costs became unsustainable and fire sale it became a necessity.

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