Rhino horns worth $7 million seized by customs official at South African airport

Dozens of rhino horn pieces disguised as art were seized by South African customs officials at the airport in Johannesburg on Tuesday. The seized horns valued at about $7 million. 

In a statement, the customs authority said that the officials at OR Tambo International Airport "discovered 41 pieces of rhino horn valued at 115.66 million rand in a consignment declared as 'fine art'". 

These horns were set to leave for Kuala Lumpur via Doha, however, they were detected during a routine inspection of warehouses at the country's largest airport.

South Africa is home to over 80 per cent of the Rhinos population and has become the epicentre of poaching in recent years. The country has witnessed a decline in poaching incidents since 2014. 

In 2019, 594 rhino were slaughtered for their horns, down from 769 in 2018.

Rhino horns are used by consumers in Asia, where they are used as traditional medicine, an aphrodisiac or as a status symbol, and can fetch up to $60,000 per kilogramme. The horn contains keratin, the same substance found in the human nail. 

According to the conservation organisation Traffic, criminal networks of Chinese origin operate in South Africa processing rhino horn into beads, bracelets, bangles and powder to evade detection.