MAPUTO (Reuters) - Mozambican police have seized nearly 1.3 metric tons (1.4 tons) of ivory and rhino horns, obtained from the illegal slaughter of 65 rhinos and 170 elephants, in a house belonging to a Chinese national.
Mozambique is a major source of poachers willing to cross the porous border with South Africa to fill orders for rhino horn from criminal syndicates in East Asia, where some consider it to have medicinal properties.
“Undoubtedly, this is a case related to poaching. Some ivory pieces still have fresh blood, a sign that some animals may have been recently killed,” a police spokesman said on Thursday.
Last year South Africa, home to more than 80 percent of the world’s rhinos, lost an estimated record 1,215 of the animals to poachers, many of them from the Kruger Park, which borders Mozambique.
While poaching of elephants is rare in South Africa, more than 20,000 elephants were killed elsewhere in the continent in 2013, and conservationists say the number being killed is now probably exceeding the number being born.
Almost all trade in elephant ivory and rhino horns is banned worldwide to try to save the animals from extinction.
Mozambican police said their haul consisted of 340 elephant tusks weighing about 1,160 kg (2,557 lb)and 65 rhino horns weighing about 124 kg.
Reporting by Manuel Mucari; Editing by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura and Kevin Liffey