Is Derek Lewitton arrested? Get updates on the controversial and polarizing figure at the heart of the heated rhino horn trade controversy.
Derek Lewitton, a well-known figure in rhino conservation circles and the proprietor of Black Rock Rhino Conservation in South Africa, was taken into custody on December 15, 2023.
He faces allegations linked to the illicit trade of rhino horns.
Intriguingly, Lewitton has been an outspoken proponent for the legalization of rhino horn trade, arguing it could thwart the species’ slide towards extinction.
However, his arrest took a twist when officials discovered multiple rhino carcasses on his premises. Alarmingly, some of these deceased animals appeared to have been stripped of their horns.
The situation has sent ripples through the conservation community, casting shadows over the delicate balance between conservation strategies and legal frameworks.
Is Derek Lewitton Arrested For Rhino Carcasses? Case Updates
According to the South African Police Service (SAPS), Lewitton was arrested along with two other suspects, who were identified as his employees.
The SAPS said they seized 12 rhino horns, a firearm, ammunition, and a vehicle during the operation.
They also said they found evidence of a clandestine laboratory where the horns were processed and packaged for export.
Hawks apprehend Derek Lewitton following the discovery of rhino carcasses and horns on his property. (Image Source: News24)
Lewitton and his co-accused appeared in the Tzaneen Magistrate’s Court on December 18, 2023, where they faced charges of contravening the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA).
It prohibits possessing, trading, and exporting rhino horns without a permit. They also faced charges of illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.
The court denied them bail and remanded them in custody until their next appearance on January 15, 2024.
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Lewitton’s lawyer, Advocate Thabo Mokoena, said his client was innocent and that he had all the necessary permits to own and dehorn rhinos on his reserve.
He said Lewitton was a victim of a smear campaign by anti-trade activists who wanted to discredit his efforts to save the rhinos.
He also said Lewitton had been cooperating with the authorities and had voluntarily handed over the horns from the dead rhinos to the SAPS for DNA testing.
Derek Lewitton Charges Faced In 2023
Lewitton finds himself ensnared in a legal quagmire with potential repercussions that could see him incarcerated for a decade.
The National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) stipulates severe penalties for transgressions related to rhino conservation.
Specifically, those found guilty of unauthorized possession, trading, or exportation of rhino horns face a staggering fine, capped at R10 million, or a maximum imprisonment term of 10 years, or both.
Lewitton faces a complex legal dilemma with potential consequences that might lead to a decade-long imprisonment. (Image Source: YouTube)
Moreover, the Act underscores the gravity of possessing illicit firearms or ammunition, imposing penalties that could span up to 15 years in prison.
After Lewitton’s arrest, a fervent discourse regarding rhino protection strategies has ignited within conservationist circles, activists, and the broader populace.
Lewitton’s stance—that legalizing the rhino horn trade could mitigate illegal market demand and channel funds toward conservation—has garnered both support and opposition.
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Proponents believe this approach could stymie poaching incentives.
Conversely, critics fear legalization might amplify the allure of rhino products, exacerbating poaching rates and compromising demand-reduction endeavors, especially in pivotal consumer nations like China and Vietnam.
The case underscores the complexities of wildlife conservation and the urgent need for holistic, effective strategies.