Swedish man released after rhino poaching row

A Swedish journalist and his German photographer were held briefly by police on Monday while investigating rhino poaching in southern Mozambique, one of them revealed on Tuesday.

Swedish man released after rhino poaching row
Investigators look at the body of a poached rhino on the Mozambique border in 2014. Photo: TT

Bartholomaeus Grill, the Africa correspondent for the German magazine Der Spiegel, and Swedish photographer Torbjörn Selander were taken to the police by angry Mavodze villagers who suspected they were spies.

"We were… arrested in Mavodze, a small village near Limpopo (national) park, while we were looking for the local kingpin of rhino poaching," Grill told news agency AFP.

The villagers took the journalists to the police station where they demanded that they be locked up."They were shouting 'put them in the cell'", said Grill.

The suspected gang leader "has 10 teams of poachers, he brings income to the village, he is like a godfather," he said.

Although the pair did not enter the ringleader's house, he filed "trespassing" charges against the reporters.

Thanks to the intervention of their embassies and senior police officers, the pair negotiated their release hours later.

Mozambique is a prime source of illegal hunters hired and armed by transnational crime syndicates to cross the border into South Africa to kill the rhinos.

The Mavodze village is near Mozambique's Limpopo Park, which is adjacent to South Africa's famous Kruger National Park.

Kruger shares a long border with Mozambique and has borne the brunt of rhino poaching in recent years.

South Africa, which is home to the world's largest rhino population, is facing a poaching crisis, with 1,215 animals killed in 2014, an increase of 21 percent on 2013. Most of the attacks occur in the Kruger National Park.

Rhino horns are prized as a status symbol in Asia and are thought to possess medicinal properties to cure cancers and hangovers, even though they are composed of the same material as fingernails.