In a ground-breaking decision for the first time on record in the Eastern Cape, and possibly South Africa, an Encephalartos cycad poacher has been sentenced to ten years imprisonment by the Jansenville regional court.
The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) would like to commend the National Prosecuting Authority, Advocate Coetzee, and the members of the South African Police Service who arrested the aforementioned poacher and three others. This is a truly outstanding conclusion and will hopefully send a strong message to potential perpetrators that it is not worth removing these endangered plants from the wild.
The case involved four poachers arrested in 2014 for attempting to smuggle twelve Karoo cycads (Encephalartos lehmannii) to Johannesburg. This is listed as a protected species in the national list of Threatened or Protected Species published on 23rd February 2007. The matter, prosecuted by Advocate Coetzee in the Jansenville regional court, concluded on 24th June 2015, where the presiding officer, Magistrate Rene Esterhuize, sentenced three of the poachers – Shadrack Matambo, Desmond Manodawafa and Alex Khoza – to five years direct imprisonment. The fourth poacher, Sibusiso Khumalo, was sentenced to ten years due to his previous two convictions for cycad poaching. The vehicle used in the commission of the offences was also seized by the state.
The EWT is active in raising awareness and conducting enforcement training programmes specific to cycads, as well as hosting various training interventions with law enforcement officials from mixed enforcement agencies including the South African Police Service.
In South Africa, the greatest threat facing cycads is the poaching of plants from wild populations to supply both domestic and international markets. Three species of cycad are now deemed extinct in the wild, while twelve are labelled ‘Critically Endangered’, four are ‘Endangered’, nine are ‘Vulnerable’, and seven are considered ‘Near Threatened’. The Encephalartos lehmannii falls into the last category.
The EWT wholeheartedly supports the work of all parties involved in bringing these poachers to justice and looks forward to seeing more cases concluded in this manner.
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