News / South Africa / Crime

Nelie Erasmus
2 minute read
23 Aug 2019
12:21 pm

Limpopo government official caught with pangolin

Nelie Erasmus

The pangolin was found in the back of a luxury vehicle owned and driven by Zwiitwaho Maphiri.

The pangolin is thought to be prehistoric and is estimated to have lived on earth for nearly 80 million years. Photo: SpiritHoods

A government official attached to the department of agriculture and rural development, 45-year-old Zwiitwaho Maphiri, and another person were arrested for the possession of a pangolin near Pienaarsrivier last week, reports Polokwane Review.

It is illegal to be in possession of pangolin, a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) listed and protected species.

The Limpopo Endangered Species and Stock Theft Unit, and a joint task team flagged down and arrested the suspects at the Hammanskraal turn-off, acting on crime intelligence information that the suspects were in possession of a pangolin without having a permit. The second accused is alleged to be a self-employed builder from the Thohoyandou area, 30-year-old Vele Ravura.

ALSO READ: How you can help win the war against pangolin smuggling

Departmental spokesperson, Moshupulogo Mushu, confirmed the arrest, but said the department could not further comment, as the case was in the hands of the law enforcement agencies and the courts. The suspects appeared in the Bela-Bela court and bail was granted, as Maphiri was at work on Monday.

The pangolin was seized by the police and handed over to the African Pangolin Working Group for rehabilitation and release.

Polokwane Review tried to get a comment from Maphiri, but his cellphone went unanswered.

The pangolin is thought to be prehistoric and is estimated to have lived on earth for nearly 80 million years. Pangolins are shy, nocturnal mammals that are completely covered in plate-like scales, and often referred to as “scaly anteaters”. They are the world’s most trafficked mammal, due to the high demand for their scales and meat.

Their meat is considered a delicacy, while their scales are said to “cure” illnesses in traditional Asian medicine. In traditional Chinese medicine, the pangolins’ blood and body parts have been used to treat anything from stomach disorders to cancer and asthma. The Chinese government has even permitted some hospitals to use pangolin medicines as treatment for patients.

Pangolins are said to cure 42 conditions, from infertility to stomach ulcers, to removing bad luck or warding off evil forces. It is estimated that over a million pangolins were caught in the last decade. According to information on the internet on “Animal Fact”, the illegal trade in pangolins worldwide is estimated to be worth about R250 billion a year.

An average pangolin will be sold by poachers for between R2,500 to R3,255 to middlemen. They will then sell this on for between R22,500 to R37,500. The scales of pangolin will sell for between R9,000 and R15,000 per kilogram.

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