BY MARK BABATUNDE
A Namibian court has sentenced four Chinese nationals to prison for illegally trafficking endangered wildlife species. According to the Namibian, the four were convicted of having tried to smuggle 14 rhinoceros horns and a leopard skin out of Namibia in March of 2014.
While handing out their sentences, Magistrate Alexis Diergaardt of the Windhoek Regional Court said, “the message must be clear to the rest of the community and the international community that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.”
Li Zhibing (55), Pu Xuexin (51), Li Xiaoliang (32), and Wang Hui (41), were arrested as they tried to execute a well-sketched out operation to smuggle the items through the Hosea Kutako International Airport.
Zhibing, Xuexin, and Xiaoling were arrested after officials discovered the animal parts in their suitcases. Wang was charged as an accomplice, for booking hotel rooms for the other three and helping them purchase flight tickets.
The four men were all sentenced to a 14-year prison term, however the magistrate suspended part of their sentences depending on the length of time they had already spent in jail following their arrest.
Magistrate Diergaardt said the sentencing was meant to correct their behavior and also serve as a deterrent to all potential offenders. She stressed the fact that rhinos are part of some of Africa’s endangered wildlife species on the brink of extinction. She said the actions of the Chinese nationals was all the more reproachable because evidence suggests that they travelled to Namibia with the sole purpose of illegally smuggling wildlife body parts.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Chinese and other Asian nationals are responsible for 90 percent of the poaching and illegal trafficking of Africa’s rhino’s. The IUCN lists both the black and white rhino as endangered species.