Poaching sentence welcomed
Poachers stripping South Africa’s natural assets for profit must be severely dealt with. It is in this vein that Anton Bredell, the minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning in the Western Cape welcomes the recent sentencing of a foreign national by the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court.
The court handed down the highest sentence ever imposed for the illegal possession of ivory in South African history – 10 years behind bars and a R5 million fine. The convicted man was found to be in possession of 1 ton of poached elephant tusks, worth around R21 million.
“Poachers are stripping South Africa’s rare and endangered fauna and flora as if there is an endless supply out there. But there isn’t, and if these criminals are going to be allowed to continue in the manner they have been going on, soon the only cycads or rhinos our grandchildren will get to see will be in history books,” says Bredell.
He says heavy penalties and jail time like the one just handed down by the court, must become the norm for a criminal enterprise that is too often not considered to be a priority crime.
“Millions of tourists visit South Africa to see plants and animals they cannot see anywhere else in the world and South Africans themselves are very proud of their natural heritage. Poaching and thieving of rare plants and animals is a critical issue that speaks to many things including the country’s bottom-line and affects many lives.”
Over the first six months of 2014, 136 poaching suspects have been arrested nationally and charged for rhino poaching and related crimes.
“Rhinos and elephants are however only a small section of a billion dollar illegal industry that involves a wide range of species including insects, reptiles and - more locally - species like cycads, abalone and lobster. We need to see similar tough measures taken against poachers across the board where deemed necessary,” Bredell says.