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Rhino poachers stay behind bars

10 members of a rhino killing syndicate were remanded in police custody for seven days for their formal bail application hearing on 29 September 2014.

Hugo Ras, the alleged ring leader of the rhino poaching syndicate

Hugo Ras, the alleged ring leader of the rhino poaching syndicate

The suspects, Hugo Ras, his wife, Trudie Ras, and his brothers, Anton Ras and Arno Smith, Bonnie Steyn, a pilot from Ficksburg, Willie Oosthuizen, a warrant officer of the Hawks in Pretoria, Joseph Wilkinson, an attorney from Pretoria, Christoffel Scheepers, Mandla Magagula and Willem van Jaarsveld briefly appeared in the Hatfield Magistrate’s Court on several rhino-poaching charges.

The suspects were between 30 and 50 years old.

The Hawks arrested them last week Friday in raids at various locations across South Africa.

On Saturday, Wilkinson approached the Pretoria High Court for an urgent bail application, but he did not succeed.

The Hawks’ investigating team arrested Hugo Ras, who is believed to have managed the syndicate’s activities for nearly five years while he was appearing in court on other charges.

The syndicate mainly operated in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, the North West, Gauteng, and KwaZulu-Natal.

The group has been linked to the brutal slaughter and mutilation of 24 rhinos in state owned and privately owned game reserves.

Only two of the 24 rhinos that were attacked, survived, but they were dehorned after they were darted. The 34 horns were either stolen or obtained through other devious means.

The ruthless killings took place between 2008 and 2012.

In total, the syndicate illegally obtained 84 rhino horns and killed 22 rhinos valued at nearly R22 million.

“The Hawks will continue to work together in an endeavour to address these types of syndicates. They have no sympathy towards our rhinos.

It is clear that they have no regard for the rule of law,” said Lieutenant General Anwa Dramat, the National Head of the Hawks.

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