A pangolin presumably destined for the Chinese traditional medicine market or bush-meat markets of South-East Asia has been rescued by conservation officials and SAPS members in the town of Brits in North West Province.
The animal was found in a car that was stopped and searched at a petrol station near Alpha Crossing in the town.
Three people who were travelling in the vehicle were arrested when they could not give a valid reason for the pangolin in their possession. The trio, aged between 22 and 35, are due to appear in the Brits Magistrate's Court on Monday.
Pangolin found after tip-off from NGO
Police spokesperson Maria Nkabinde said Nature Conservation officials and members of various police units acted after receiving a tip-off about a possible pangolin sale from an NGO responsible for combatting the illegal trade of wildlife and endangered species.
The African Pangolin Working Group states that, despite a ban on international trade by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), pangolins are still one of the most trafficked mammals in the world.
As a result, each of the eight species is now threatened with extinction.
In this photo, published on the African Pangolin Working Group website, Ally the pangolin is shown enjoying her hard-won freedom before giving birth. Many of the rescued animals are given names indicating where they were rescued. Ally, for example, was found at Alldays in Limpopo. Copyright Francois Meyer
A number of recent pangolin rescues
Recently a number of pangolins have been rescued as the illegal trade in the animals ramps up in tandem with the easing of lockdown regulations.
In an article published by Independent Online in early August, Ray Jansen of the African Pangolin Working Group recounted how four animals – three of them pregnant – were recovered during sting operations in various parts of South Africa.
In total, 11 people were arrested by a team of specialised law enforcement officials in connection with these incidents.
Transnational criminal syndicates are involved
Pangolins are in demand largely for their keratinous scales, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine, and for their meat in South-East Asia.
This has created a lucrative illicit market run by transnational criminal syndicates.
According to Jansen, last year authorities intercepted more than 97 tons of scales from Africa representing over 150 000 animals. But the real poaching onslaught is far higher, as only 10% of the illicit trade is intercepted.