Image: Rhinoceros corpse
The corpse of a slaughtered rhino is seen at a national park in South Africa. Rhino horns are used in medicines in parts of Asia.
updated 1/16/2009 9:48:11 AM ET 2009-01-16T14:48:11

South African police and game park rangers have arrested 11 suspects in an international rhinoceros poaching ring.

Police commissioner Ray Lalla said in a statement Friday that some of the rhinos had their horns hacked from them while they were still alive.

Investigators tracked the suspects — identified as South African, Chinese and Mozambican — for days.

They were charged with illegally hunting game in the national parks, illegally possessing and dealing in rhino horn and illegal possession of firearms.

Rhino horn is used in medicines in parts of Asia, where some believe it is an aphrodisiac.

Wildlife trade's dark sideLast year, the U.N. agency that oversees the international wildlife trade said that rhinos were in trouble across the continent and in India.

"Populations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Mozambique, Nepal, South Africa and Zimbabwe, are all suffering from poaching," the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species stated in July.

"The situation is so critical in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that scientists fear the population may have been wiped out. Illegal trade in rhinoceros horn appears to be a cause of major concern. It includes fraudulent applications for CITES documents, abuse of legal trophy hunting and the use of couriers smuggling horns from southern Africa to Far East Asia."

More on South Africa | rhinoceros

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