In a nighttime theft, robbers broke into a South African provincial parks office and used a machine tool called a grinder to break into a safe holding several dozen rhino horns worth a fortune on the illegal market in parts of Asia.
The weekend heist in the northeastern city of Nelspruit was a blow to efforts to curb the clandestine trade in rhino horn, which has surged in recent years despite an increase in funding for anti-poaching efforts in South Africa, home to the majority of the world’s rhinos.
On Tuesday, forensic investigators from the police analysed the crime scene at the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, and officials were exploring the theory that it was an inside job.
“It’s too early to be ruling out that possibility,” said Captain Paul Ramaloko of a South African investigative police unit called the Hawks. “We are approaching the investigation with an open mind.”
The robbery of “nearly 40” rhino horns occurred Saturday night, Ramaloko said.
The thieves targeted a safe where the parks agency of Mpumalanga province keeps some rhino horn stock temporarily before transporting it to “another undisclosed location” for longer-term storage, said Kholofelo Nkambule, an agency spokeswoman. The powerful machine tool used by the robbers broke part of the safe into pieces, she said….
South Africa Today – South Africa News