Poachers Now Targeting the Cape Point Tortoise Population
I have received a most disturbing press release from the Minister of Local Government,Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (in full below). Apparently the humble tortoise is now the target of poachers. Luckily we live in a very busy, built up area so there are a lot more eyes and ears available than in rural parts of the country. Still, such things are only effective if we are all willing to be vigilant.
If you are in the Cape Point area report anything suspicious to the authorities IMMEDIATELY!
Lets make this a ‘not on my watch’ thing for the Cape Point Peninsula!
Here is the press release in full.
STATEMENT BY MR ANTON BREDELL,MINISTER OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT,ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS AND DEVELOPMENT PLANNING
DATE: 22 FEBRUARY 2012
MINISTER BREDELL CONDEMNS TORTOISE POACHING
Today in Cape Town, Mr Anton Bredell, the Western Cape Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning condemned the actions of Chinese nationals that saw the recent killing of more than 40 rare tortoises for meat in Zimbabwe. The individuals involved are now facing possible deportation.
Bredell has however praised the quick actions of conservation and law enforcement officials in that country who arrested the perpetrators.
Following these arrests, conservation authority in the Western Cape, CapeNature was tipped off that endemic tortoises are also being targeted for food in the Bredasdorp and Beaufort-West areas.
“CapeNature was informed that Chinese nationals in these areas also pay locals to collect not only tortoises, but also lizards and succulent plants.”
The Minister said: “The Western Cape, with its unique Cape Floristic Kingdom (fynbos), sees many attempts at biodiversity crime, most notably in the trade of insects, spiders, small animals such as tortoises and lizards, wild flowers and the illegal hunting of game.
However, the illegal collection of tortoises for food is also not completely new for our law enforcement officials. CapeNature’s Head of Biodiversity Crime, Paul Gildenhuys said: “A successful prosecution took place in 2003 when six South Africans from Stilbaai were arrested for collecting 29 endemic tortoises, allegedly to make ‘potjiekos’. They were sentenced to community service.
It appeared that international poachers specialising in tortoises were dealt a major blow by Western Cape law enforcement officials when the following arrests were made between 2001 – 2004:
• Walter Grosser and Viteslav Tomascek (Both of Czech Republic), arrested in 2001 for possession of 23 geometric tortoises, 13 parrot-beaked tortoises and 16 angulate tortoises. The animals were collected near Worcester. They were sentenced to R93 500 or 54 months in prison.
• Martin Kyskyn and Martin Juricek (both of Slovak Republic), arrested in Lamberts Bay area in 2004 for possession of 113 angulate tortoises. They were each sentenced to R168000 or two years in prison.
• Shinji Yamada and two others (all of Japan), arrested in Clanwilliam in 2004 for possession of 14 angulate tortoises. They were sentenced to R108,000 or two years each.
• Petr Motycka (Czech Republic), Marian Simek, Bohus Simek and Erik Kovacs (all of Slovak Republic), arrested in Doringbaai in 2004 for possession of 96 angulate tortoises. These individuals were sentenced as follows:
Motycka received a sentence of R48 000 or three years
Simek, Simek and Kovacs each received sentences of R130 000 or five years.
• Terutoshi Terada and Masato Araki (both of Japan), arrested in Vredendal in 2004 for illegal collection of 5 angulate tortoises (as well as lizards). A plea bargain agreement was negotiated and each was sentenced to R110 000 or two years.
Up until now, no further similar reptile cases have been reported to CapeNature.
“As the custodians of biodiversity in the Western Cape we know that ordinary citizens can play an important role in fighting biodiversity crime: Many of our best tips come straight from the public. If you have any information on the illegal harvesting, transportation or smuggling of our natural heritage, please phone your nearest police station or nearest CapeNature office”, urges Bredell.
What should the public be looking out for?The collection of wild animals and flora is regulated by the Nature Conservation Ordinance. No person may collect tortoises without a permit authorizing them to do so. Tortoises found on any road should merely be moved to the side of the road in the direction which they are travelling. Members of the public are encouraged to report any individual seen collecting tortoises to the SAPS or CapeNature.The Western Cape has 8 out of 12 types (species) of tortoises in South Africa. This makes the Western Cape the region in the World with the highest number of terrestrial tortoises species anywhere.
CapeNature is a public institution with the statutory responsibility for biodiversity conservation in the Western Cape. It is governed by the Western Cape Nature Conservation Board Act 15 of 1998 and mandated to: promote and ensure nature conservation; render services and provide facilities for research and training; and generate income.
Liesl Brink – Public Relations Officer: CapeNature Mobile: 071 688 2649 ;
Peter Pullen – Spokesperson Ministry of Local Government and Environmental Affairs
Mobile: 082 574 3773 ;Email: Peter.Pullen@pgwc.gov.za
Cape Point residents and visitors- keep your eyes open and report anything suspicious immediately