Ari B. Goldenberg, 46, of Milton, N.H., was charged today with trafficking in and making a false record for illegally selling a black rhinoceros head mount to an undercover U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) special agent.
The indictment is a result of a nationwide effort led by the FWS and the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute those involved in the black market trade of endangered rhinoceros horns.
The indictment alleges that Goldenberg, seeking to profit from the sale of a black rhinoceros head mount he acquired for less than $1,000, illegally sold the mount to an undercover special agent of the FWS Office of Law Enforcement for $35,000. The indictment also charges Goldenberg with providing the undercover agent with a falsified receipt for the sale of the mount.
Rhinoceros are a herbivorous species of prehistoric origin and one of the largest remaining mega-fauna on earth. They have no known predators other than humans. All species of rhinoceros are protected under United States and international law, and all black rhinoceros species are endangered. Since 1976, trade in rhinoceros horn has been regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a treaty signed by more than 175 countries around the world to protect fish, wildlife and plants that are or may become imperiled due to the demands of international markets. Nevertheless, the demand for rhinoceros horn and black market prices have skyrocketed in recent years due to the value that some cultures have placed on ornamental carvings, good luck charms or alleged medicinal purposes, leading to a decimation of the global rhinoceros population. In China, there is a tradition dating back centuries of intricately carved rhinoceros horn cups. Drinking from such a cup was believed to bring good health, and such carvings are highly prized by collectors. As a result of this demand, rhino populations have declined by more than 90 percent since 1970. South Africa, for example, has witnessed a rapid escalation in poaching of live animals, rising from 13 in 2007 to more than 618 in 2012.
An indictment is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The case was investigated by the FWS Office of Law Enforcement and is being prosecuted by the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.