Pretoria – TWO men were arrested in the CBD for allegedly trafficking and trying to sell a pangolin for approximately R350 000.
Police said they had received a tip-off at around 10am of the endangered animal in transit from Joburg to Pretoria, and had set up an operation to catch the men.
The accused arrived at the basement parking of Sammy Marks Square. “When the suspects arrived we were already waiting, and executed an arrest of both the men, one a Zimbabwean national and the other South African,” police said.
Preliminary investigations revealed the pangolin was from Thabazimbi.
Further investigations were expected to yield more information on where the pangolin was headed, or who it was meant for.
Professor Ray Jansen, who has been working with pangolins for more than 10 years, and is founder and chairperson of the African Pangolin Working Group, that works alongside the SAPS and stock theft unit and counter operations, said this was the 32nd pangolin retrieved from poachers.
“On Tuesday, we intercepted one in the Pilanesberg. After being rescued, each pangolin goes to the vet at an off-site location, and then through an intensive care programme, then a longer release monitoring process, and we follow them up to a year to see they survive.”
He said syndicates were targeting the pangolins in the belief they had medicinal and spiritual benefits.
“In Asia, particularly China, they use the scales for Chinese traditional medicine perceived to cure multiple ailments, and other uses include spiritual remedies.
“There are eight pangolin species, four in Asia and four in Africa, but in Asia they are over harvested and poached due to the perception that people can get rich really quickly by selling them off to someone rich.
“A lot of the arrests are of neighbouring country nationals, who bring them into the border in a get-rich-quick scheme.
“The perception is not true, pangolin scales are made up of the same thing our hair and nails are made of, which is just keratin, and has no use in medicine. They must leave our heritage and wild animals for future conservation.”
He said the situation was getting worse.
“Last year we had 36, the year before 43, and this year we may exceed 36 pangolins. Our court systems must send a strong message.
“On Tuesday a man was sentenced in the Polokwane High Court to eight years, which is the most severe sentence we’ve got.”
Jansen said there was a very real possibility of extinction of the eight species of pangolin.
“Last year, I recorded 97 tonnes of scales leaving the African continent, from more than 150 000 animals.
“If it carries on like this, by 2040 all pangolins will be extinct on Earth,” he said.