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Authorities bust slaughterhouse at American activist’s ranch, discover 26 dead rhinos

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Authorities bust slaughterhouse at American activist’s ranch, discover 26 dead rhinos

South African authorities conducted a raid at Harmony Reserve in the Limpopo Province, revealing a disturbing scene resembling a ‘slaughterhouse’ where 26 dead rhinos were found decaying on the property.

The raid led to the arrest of American rhino trade activist Derek Lewitton, 53, and the seizure of 10 illegal rhino horns from a safe on the ranch.

The operation, conducted by ‘The Hawks’ unit, involved helicopters and numerous vehicles in response to a tip about illegal weapons and rhino horns at the location.

Derek Lewitton, a former US resident turned conservationist, had purchased the private ranch in South Africa in 2016 with a focus on breeding endangered black rhinos.

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Despite his controversial stance on legalising rhino horn sales, his ranch was found to have 26 unreported rhino carcasses after 16 hours of evidence collection.

Lewitton faces charges related to violations of the Firearms Act, the National Biodiversity Act of 2004, and the Nemba Act, which pertain to restricted activities with rhino horn specimens. Limpopo Police Spokesman Brigadier Hulani Mashaba confirmed the discovery, stating, “Some 26 unreported rhino carcasses were found on the property along with 10 rhino horns in the farmhouse safe.”

The raid also uncovered seven unlawfully acquired firearms and confiscated hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

The ranch was described from the helicopter as a “slaughterhouse,” with scattered rhino carcasses, some shot dead, and others perishing from undisclosed causes.

Investigations are ongoing to determine the circumstances of their deaths.

Lewitton has been denied bail until a hearing scheduled for January 3, raising questions about his conservation practices and the ethical implications of legalising rhino horn trade.

The incident has shed light on the conservation challenges faced by activists, particularly in the debate surrounding rhino horn trade legalisation.

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