The alleged leader of a South African syndicate dealing in the poaching and trafficking of rhinos was indicted on Thursday by the U.S. Dawie Groenewald runs the company Out of Africa Adventurous Safaris with his brother, Janneman Groenewald, which is charged with selling illegal South African wildlife hunts. Both men have been indicted in Alabama on a number of charges including money laundering, conspiracy and wildlife crime.
Out of Africa Adventurous Safaris is owned and operated by the Groenewalds. The company organizes and leads trips into private hunting land located in South Africa, Tanzania, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Part of that private land is the brothers’ own game farm, named Prachtig, which is located approximately 40 miles south of Musina, a town in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. The U.S. will seek to have the brothers extradited from South Africa.
The indictment filed in the case encompasses 18 counts which revolve around a scheme run by the Groenewald brothers from 2005 to 2010. The brothers would market their company at sportsmen’s shows in larger regions of the country, including conventions of Safari Club International. In addition, they donated safaris to Safari Club International locations in Kansas City, Mo., and at a Louisville, Ky., convention of the National Rifle Association. According to prosecutors, the hunts were priced from $3,500 to $15,000.
During the trips to Africa, hunters were offered the chance to add on to their safari for additional fees. One available add-on, which could be purchased for approximately $10,000, gave a hunter the opportunity to shoot a rhino. The brothers told the hunters that the animals were considered to be “dangerous” and “aggressive,” and that it was legal to hunt them. The hunters were told that they would not be allowed to export the horns back to the U.S., but they were allowed to take photos and videos of themselves with the dead rhino and take measurements in order to submit the information to record books.
After the rhinos were killed, the brothers or other safari staff would cut the horns from the animal and sell them on the Asian black market. The scheme allowed the company to make a profit not only on the cost of the hunt, but also on the sale of the horns.
In addition to the opportunity to kill rhinos in Africa, Out of Africa Adventurous Safaris also sold what they termed “green” hunts, during which the hunter could shoot a rhino using a tranquilizer gun. They would then be able to pose next to the animal for photographs.
The Groenewald brothers are accused of tricking nine U.S. hunters by hiding the fact that in South Africa, it is illegal to hunt rhinoceros. In addition, the men failed to obtain the permits required by law.
All five species of rhinoceros throughout the world are considered endangered. The black rhinos in Africa, which currently number under 5,000, are classified as critically endangered. Most of the 20,000 endangered southern white rhinos live in South Africa. Although loss of habitat has contributed to the dwindling numbers of rhinos, the most severe threat to their numbers is poaching. Hundreds of rhinoceros are illegally killed every year just for their horns. Rhino horn is a valuable part of traditional Chinese medicine, which is practiced not only in China, but in Vietnam and other locations in East Asia as well. Conservation efforts aim to protect the animals with new laws and an increased enforcement of existing protections. They also focus on educating the consumers of traditional Chinese medicine on the ineffectiveness and unneeded use of rhino horn in the practice.
The indictment against the brothers and Out of Africa charges that in addition to other U.S. laws, the men violated the Lacey Act. Under the Lacey Act, it is illegal to sell, either in the U.S. or abroad, any wildlife that has been hunted, owned, transported or sold illegally according to foreign laws. The Groenewalds are charged under the act for marketing hunting trips that were illegal in South Africa. The case was filed in Alabama because Janneman Groenewald once resided near Montgomery and kept bank accounts for his business in the state.
By Jennifer Pfalz