Matabeleland North Correspondent
POLICE in Victoria Falls have arrested seven Chinese nationals on allegations of possessing trophies from endangered species following a tip-off by a maid at a house the illegal items were found.
This is after they were found in possession of over 20kg of rhino horns worth an estimated $1 million.
Zeng Dengui (35), Peicon Jang (35), Liu Cheng (23), Yu Xian (25), Yong Zhu (25), Chen Zhiangfu (30) and Qui Jinchang (29), all from China, were on Monday remanded in custody by Victoria Falls magistrate Rangarirai Gakanje.
They will be back in court January 3 for trial commencement.
The seven were not asked to plead when charges of “keeping, having in possession or sell or otherwise dispose of any live specially protected animal or the meat or trophy of any such animal” were read to them.
The group is being charged under the Parks and Wildlife Act.
Their lawyer Givemore Mvhiringi of Mvhiringi and Associates said his clients were ready for trial so as to prove their innocence.
The seven were arrested when a maid at a house in Aerodrome suburb tipped police after she bumped onto the horns in the house while doing her chores.
Armed with a search warrant, police and rangers from ZimParks raided the house and recovered the pieces which were hidden in plastic bags.
The pieces weighed 20.98kg valued at $938 700.
There was also a digital scale in the house, the court heard.
“On 22 December, information was received that there were some Chinese nationals at house number 858 Aerodrome who were suspected to be keeping rhino horns. Police applied for a search warrant and proceeded to the house on Sunday morning where the accused were arrested,” said the prosecutor Bhekimpilo Tshabalala.
The rhino is one of the most endangered species and the Zimbabwe government has quarantined the wild animal from game parks to protected sanctuaries.
Rhino poaching is common in many wildlife zones driven by the demand for rhino horn in Asian countries particularly Vietnam and China.
The horn is used in traditional Chinese medicine. Rhino horns are shaved or ground into a powder and dissolved in boiling water to treat fever, rheumatism, gout and other disorders but also common is its use as a status symbol to display success and wealth.