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Rhino poacher used sex workers to dupe authorities; wildlife trafficker sought

  • Rhino horn trade: criminality, profit
  • Galster fights wildlife trafficking
  • Legal trade fuels illicit

The trade in rhino horns in Asia and Africa has spawned industrial-scale criminality and profit. Steve Galster describes how his life’s mission has been to pursue individuals openly trading animal parts.

It is reportedly more valuable than cocaine, gold, or diamonds, weighing more in value than its own weight in gold.

The trade in rhino horns in Asia and Africa has generated industrial-scale criminality and wealth, with buyers and vendors amassing millions of dollars.

Steve Galster has devoted his entire existence to pursuing individuals who openly trade and distribute animal parts.

Thefts of rhinoceros horns were reported by museums and galleries, including some in the United Kingdom, in 2011, proliferating the practice and trade.

In pursuit of financial gain, living rhinos became the primary targets as the quantity of artefacts decreased.

Early in his career, Galster specialized in wars and insurgencies while working in international security. However, he subsequently founded a charity that investigates wildlife trafficking.

Upon further investigation into the means by which criminal organizations could engage in “pretty nasty insurgencies” in the 1990s, he discovered that poaching was the underlying cause.

Galster explains, “They simply had access to it, and there was no real enforcement shield surrounding these animals; it was relatively easy pickings.”

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“In some countries, rhinos are relatively easy targets; that was £65,000 per kilogram.”

“(The rhino horn) is a negligible item to transport; it can be packed in suitcases.” “This greatly appealed to these groups.”

However, why did it command such a high price in the market?

Numerous individuals hold the belief that it possesses therapeutic attributes, specifically in relation to cancer, notwithstanding the absence of scientific substantiation to support this claim. According to Galster, it is frequently marketed as “extremely costly aspirin.”

Others hoard it (in the event that a family member becomes unwell) and resell it as its value increases.

Following that is the realm of art. The affluent consider rhino horn to be a prestige symbol due to its scarcity.

“A Pablo Escobar of the wildlife trade”

Galster called Vixay Keosavang the “Pablo Escobar of wildlife trafficking.”

Keosavang, according to the United States Department of State, is suspected of being the commander of the Xaysavang Network, an international wildlife trafficking organization that facilitates the trade of ivory, rhino horn, endangered elephants, and pangolins, among other species.

A possible £1 million reward has been proposed for information leading to the decommissioning of the network.

Galster provides a detailed account of his visit to an “industrial abattoir” under the ownership of Fatty, where he slaughtered animals, including pangolins, tigers, and bears in Thailand before transporting them to the border for delivery to Keosavang.

He feels as though it were reminiscent of a Silence of the Lambs film.

“It was essentially a farmhouse… as soon as we entered after driving up there in a swarm of vehicles, we realized something peculiar was occurring.”

“Upon observing these tigers and bears, one will notice that they are all extracting containers full of body parts. A newborn orangutan was preserved in the freezer. They possessed tortoises, snakes, and more.”

A series of events culminated in their encounter with Chumlong Lemtongthai, an individual engaged by Keosavang to conduct rhino horn hunting in South Africa, as a result of the discovery.

In order to transport the horns back to Laos, he orchestrated sham hunts in which he employed sex workers for a few hundred pounds and escorted them there while affixing their names to the documentation and feigning responsibility for the gunfire.

Trophy hunting was legal in South Africa, although individuals were limited to one rhino per year. This policy has since been changed.

Subsequently, airport surveillance and tracking by police and security services enabled them to apprehend Lemtongthai’s illicit transportation of animal parts from South Africa to Laos.

Although sentenced to forty years in prison, he was released within six years.

“Poachers are kicking us in the butts”

The illicit trade of wildlife smuggling continues to persist.

Galster believes the legal trade is the main cause of illicit trade. Criminals rely on legal elements to carry out activities and launder body parts.

He believes the most essential lesson is to halt the commercial trade in wild animals.

The benefit is being experienced by a negligible fraction of the global population.

“In some instances, this trade has been linked to zoonotic outbreaks, so it also has the potential to harm a great number of people.”

We are endeavoring to accomplish that; however, we have encountered formidable opposition.

As opposed to Southeast Asia and Africa, Galster asserts that the poachers have international connections, with the primary actors also having origins in Europe and the United States.

He continues, “We are significantly behind in this game.”

“Our posteriors are being kicked. And one way to make amends is to halt, if not outright prohibit, commercial trade with untamed animals. Wildlife protectors and existing legislation are powerless to halt this at this time.”

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