Twenty-four rhino horns worth 4 million euros (5.3 million dollars) on the black market were seized at Prague’s airport in the course of a two-year investigation, Czech customs officials said Tuesday.
Authorities said they have arrested 15 people in connection with the criminal ring that was allegedly smuggling the horns of the endangered species to Asian markets for use in traditional Chinese medicine.
The group is accused of having paid hunters from the Czech Republic and other countries to visit South Africa and go on safari hunts disguised as tourists only wishing to take the horns back home as a personal trophy.
South Africa is home to the world’s largest rhino population, estimated at about 20 000, though the large upsurge in poaching is threatening their existence. Rhino poaching is expected to reach record levels this year, according to South African officials.
There is a growing demand for the horn in traditional medicinal, particularly in China and Vietnam, though there is no scientific evidence it has any effect.