May 17 2003
By Graeme Hosken
Despite the 14-year international boycott
on ivory trade, the slaughtering of elephants for their tusks may
has come to light following the arrest of four Durban men this
week who were trying to sell two elephant tusks openly on
the city's streets.
The men were arrested during a joint
operation between the South African Police Service and the Ezemvelo
Detectives from Operation West and
undercover investigators from EKZNWL swooped on the four men on
Thursday night after receiving
a tip-off from the Durban Crime Intelligence Gathering Unit.
have caught a lot of poachers smuggling ivory'
is a joint project between the Durban Organised Crime Unit and
Durban Metro Police and is aimed at cracking down
on West African crime syndicates operating in the city.
recovered the two 4kg tusks, which are from different elephants,
and arrested the four men in a parking lot near the
Point Yacht Club.
The men were selling both tusks, which
are valued at R15 000 each, for R45 000. A bakkie used to transport
was also confiscated.
to wildlife investigators the animals from which the tusks came
were young elephants aged between six and 10 years.
the launch of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species (Cites) in 1989, there has been a worldwide ban on international
EKZNWL investigator for endangered
species, Sean McGuone, said that all recoveries of ivory were considered
in the fight against the illegal trade.
He said KwaZulu-Natal was
one of the worst places in South Africa for poaching.
We have a major problem with the poaching of our animals, especially
endangered species, in this province with a lot of the animals
being caught through snaring," he said.
McGuone said investigations
into the latest recovery had still not revealed the origin of
He said the tusks would
be sent for DNA testing to determine whether they were South
African elephants or not.
However, sources close
to the investigation believe the tusks are possibly even from
McGuone said they suspected the
men may have been part of a larger organisation involved in smuggling
Because the tusks are from two different elephants we believe there
may be more ivory stashed away somewhere in Durban. We will be
questioning the men further to determine the origin of the ivory
and to find out where the rest is," McGuone said.
He said: "Most
of ivory and rhino horn from South Africa is sent to the East where
it is used in jewellery, name stamps and
McGuone said a massive anti-poaching
drive in South Africa was proving extremely successful.
We have caught a lot of poachers smuggling ivory across our borders
from Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Angola where the act of
poaching is even worse than in South Africa," he said.
Eddie von Bargon of the Durban Metro Police, who was involved
in the arrest, said the four men would be appearing in
court next week where they would face charges of possession of
and/or dealing in specially protected game.
If found guilty the
men face a fine of R100 000 or more and/or a five year prison sentence. ©2003.
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