The South African Police Services in Northern Cape Province are investigating two Batswana men who are suspected to be part of a syndicate that smuggles animal skins and tusks between Botswana and South Africa.
Lieutenant Donald Mdluli of Kimberly Police station indicated in an interview that the two men, aged 36 and 33 years, are both Botswana citizens who were earlier this month caught with two lion skins, one leopard skin and two elephant tusks with a street value of R1 million.
“The two were arrested in connection with the smuggling after the Hawks, in conjunction with the Crime Intelligence and Nature Conservation Units, tracked the syndicate,” Mdluli said.
The Officer said the suspects were caught in Kimberly on Smithsdrift Road on the 5th of this month and the vehicle they were travelling in was confiscated and handed over to the Asset Forfeiture Unit. He noted that even though investigations are ongoing, they had established that the poachers had killed the animals.
“The two suspects are still in police custody while police investigations continue,” said the Lieutenant. He added that the suspects, who appeared in court last week, were denied bail and their case was postponed to the 16th of October this year.
Botswana’s Assistant Director of Public Relations Officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Monei Rapuleng, confirmed that his ministry had, through the Botswana Embassy in Pretoria, received reports about the arrest of the two men. He said they were arrested for contravening the National Environmental Management Biodiversity (NEMBA Act 10 of 2004) and they are facing charges for killing the animals which are categorised as endangered species.
He said the two suspects are represented by Advocate Strydom of Vendor and associates from Vryburg, South Africa.
Botswana Police Public Relations Officer, Christopher Mbulawa, said they are not aware of the crime and that they could not comment as the crime took place outside their policing jurisdiction.
“Your questions should be directed to South African police,” he said.
The Public Relations Officer from the Department of Wild Life and National Parks, Olerile Orapeleng, also said they are not aware of the crime.