South Africa detains Thai rhino poaching suspect

A black rhino calf stands with its mother in its enclosure at Lympne Wild Animal Park, England, 21 June Some black rhinos are being bred in zoos to protect the species

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A Thai man suspected of having links to a rhino poaching syndicate has been detained in South Africa.

He is suspected of being an associate of another Thai national, Chumlong Lemtongthai, a South African Revenue Service spokesman told AFP news agency.

Mr Lemtongthai is in custody charged with organising illegal rhino poaching expeditions.

Wildlife charity WWF said this week that demand for rhino horns had led to record poaching in South Africa.

The latest suspect's name cannot be released until he is formally arrested.

He has a previous conviction in South Africa for smuggling lion bones and other illegal animal products and was trying to enter the country on a fake passport, Revenue Service spokesman Adrian Lackay was quoted by AFP as saying.

Officals allege the syndicate ran by Mr Lemtongthai would obtain trophy hunting permits and then buy the rhinos' horns from the hunters for an average of 65,000 rand ($8,342; £5,201) per kilogramme to send overseas.

WWF says the spike in poaching in Africa and South Asia is largely caused by increased demand for rhino horn for use in traditional medicine in Vietnam and other parts of Asia.

In Vietnam many believe that ground rhino horn can be used to cure cancer - although there is no scientific proof of this - and horns taken to the the Middle East are used to make handles for ornamental daggers.

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