In a record sentence, Thai rhino poaching ring-leader Chumlong Lemtongthai has been sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Lemtongthai pleaded guilty to charges of exporting rhino horn from South Africa to Asian markets. He admitted to operating bogus ‘legal’ hunts by paying prostitutes to act as trophy hunters, and then stealing the horn for illegal trade.
Lemtongthai was charged on 52 counts, including illegally obtaining hunting permits that led to the illegal exportation of nearly 26 rhino horns; trading in rhino horn; breaching the Customs and Excise Act as well as tax fraud. He was taking advantage of the law in South Africa that allows foreigners to hunt rhino and return to their country with trophies.
Lemtongthai told Johnannesburg’s Kempton Park magistrates court: “I humbly apologise to the court and to the people of South Africa for my role in this matter. I appreciate that the emotions of all animal lovers in South Africa are running very high and that I was part of the problem,” The Guardian reported.
This is the highest sentence given to anyone involved with poaching rhino in South Africa.
The minister of environmental affairs Ms Edna Molewa has welcomed the decision, saying it will illustrate the seriousness with which the government of South Africa views rhino poaching.
Animal Rights Campaigner Miranda Jordan said in an interview on Aljazeera. “We will never ever regain those rhino, that is the big loss, but what a wonderful, strong message has been sent out today!”