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By Carien Grobler

Deputy Digital Editor

Man suspected of theft commits suicide with his own snakes

His hands were uncuffed so he could point out stolen items, after which he suddenly put his hand in two different cages containing dangerous snakes.

It was a sad moment when Reinet Meyer, chief inspector of the Bloemfontein SPCA, opened the door to a house in Hennenman to discover 70 illegally kept wild animals, including several snakes, in crisis.

Following the death of their owner, the Bloemfontein SPCA received an appeal for assistance from the local conservation authority indicating that a large number of illegally kept indigenous and exotic animals were slowly starving to death in his house, the SPCA said in a statement.

Upon their arrival, the team found that some animals had already succumbed to starvation and dehydration, but that over 60 animals were still alive and in need of rescue. Majority of the animals were highly venomous snakes, which complicated the rescue.  

All the animals were then caught, crated by experienced snake handlers, and rushed to the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital for emergency treatment by the Virginia and Bloemfontein SPCAs.

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A baby Nile monitor that was found inside Marius Joubert’s house. Picture: Facebook/Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital

Suicide by snakebite

The owner, Marius Joubert (28), was due to appear in the Hennenman Magistrate’s Court on 5 April to face charges of burglary and theft. Joubert worked as a security officer, said Captain Stephen Thakeng, police spokesperson in the Free State.

On 30 March 2024, while in police custody, he offered to point out more items stolen during the housebreaking and theft in which he was a suspect. The investigator booked him out from police custody, cuffed his hands and feet, and took him to his house in Hennenman.

His hands were uncuffed so he could point out the items, after which he suddenly put his hand in two different cages containing dangerous snakes. Both snakes bit Joubert.

The investigator called an ambulance, but Joubert refused treatment. Only after he was taken back to the police station and released on a warning to appear in court on 5 April, another ambulance was called.

He was transported to the Katleho Hospital in Virginia and transferred to the Bongani Hospital in Welkom, where he passed away from the snakebites.

Unregulated and unlawful trade

According to the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital, the international trade in reptiles, amphibians and arachnids is unregulated, often unlawful, and an ever-growing industry in South Africa.

Unlike popular charismatic species such as wild cats, elephants, and primates; reptiles are often considered lesser animals and consequently afforded less conservation attention.

They often are cheap and easily replaceable with at least 50% of animals being wild-caught or poached and then laundered as captive-bred into the exotic wildlife trade – a huge threat to biodiversity and conservation.

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