THE DEPARTMENT of Environmental Affairs has congratulated the officials involved in the arrest of three men for the illegal possession and sale of elephant ivory in Midrand on Wednesday, 12 September 2018.
“The arrest of these suspects and the recovery of an elephant tusk during a joint operation by the Green Scorpions from the Department of Environmental Affairs and SANParks, the Hawks and the police’s K9 unit, is a shining example of the collaborative effort to combat wildlife crime in South Africa,” said the Department of Environmental Affairs’ spokesman Albi Modise.
The joint undercover operation that led to the arrest, seizure of two vehicles and an elephant tusk, followed a tip-off to a member of the Department’s Environmental Management Inspectorate, known as the Green Scorpions.
The illegal trade of ivory is a criminal offence in terms of the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act and carries a maximum penalty of 10 years or a fine of R10 million.
The three accused will appear in the Wynberg Magistrates Court on 14 September 2018. The investigation continues.
In a separate development, the Department has noted the recent sentencing of Jan Adriaan van Vuuren in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court to a fine of R200 000 or 3 years imprisonment , half of which was suspended for 5 years, for the illegal possession of 35 cycads.
Van Vuuren was arrested on 14 December 2016 at his house in the East of Pretoria, La Montagne area, during a joint operation by the Hawks in Limpopo and the Environmental Management Inspectorate (Green Scorpions) of the Department of Environmental Affairs. Van Vuuren illegally bought threatened cycads from an undercover Police agent on two occasions. The Green Scorpions also seized a further 35 cycads from his home.
He faced charges for the illegal purchase of threatened or protected cycads without a permit in terms of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA), the National Environmental Management Laws Act, cycad permitting and possession regulations. Van Vuuren pleaded guilty to the three charges.
“The collaboration between the Hawks and the Department of Environmental Affairs in this investigation is to be commended. A lot of hard work went into this investigation and is an indication of the dedication of the officials tasked with ensuring our country’s natural heritage is protected” said Modise.
Modise added that this sentence sent a message to those trafficking cycads, which is the most trafficked plant species in South Africa, that our integrated law enforcement effort continues to see positive results in combatting this type of crime.
In terms of NEMBA the proposed sentences for offences related to cycads are a fine equal to three times the commercial value of the plant or R10 million, whichever is greater, and/or a jail sentence not exceeding 10 years or both.