“In 2003, enterprising criminals in Southeast Asia realized that they could exploit a loophole in South Africa’s hunting laws to move rhino horns legally across international borders. Normally, North Americans and Europeans account for the bulk of South Africa’s rhino hunting permits. But that year, 10 Vietnamese “hunters” quietly applied as well.
Hunters are allowed to transport legally obtained trophies across borders under various international and domestic laws. The Vietnamese hunters each returned home with the mounted horn, head or even whole body of a rhino.
Word spread. Though Vietnam and other Asian countries have no history of big-game sport hunting, South Africa was soon inundated with applicants from Asia, who sometimes paid $85,000 or more to shoot a single white rhino.
That represented the beginning of an illicit industry referred to as pseudo-hunting — a first step toward the rhino poaching crisis that rages today. And the story of one of its chief practitioners shows the lengths to which criminals will go to move wildlife contraband.”
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