Police strike in battle against wildlife crime


The forces of law and order have come out tops in two recent skirmishes with the wildlife poaching fraternity as the battle against those determined to ravage South Africa’s natural heritage continues.

The first saw the serious crime investigation team of the SA Police Service (SAPS) intercept R38 million worth of rhino horn in Gauteng’s Ekurhuleni metro. The horn was stashed in wine crates found in a warehouse in Kempton Park. SAPS Captain Ndivhuwo Mulamu said the consignment of horn was destined for Malaysia. No arrests have yet been made with the investigation continuing.

The seizure of horn in Kempton Park comes two weeks after Petrus Stephanus Steyn (61) and Clive John Melville (57) appeared briefly in the Brits Magistrate’s Court in connection with charges related to the illegal trade in rhino horn. The pair was arrested near Hartbeespoort Dam in North West after an investigation revealed their apparent involvement in smuggling 150 kg of rhino horn to south-east Asia.

In Eastern Cape 47-year-old Morne Blignaut, called an “abalone poaching mastermind” by police and currently serving 20 years, has had a further five years added to his sentence.

This after the Port Elizabeth High Court imposed a further sentence on him to run concurrently with jail time for racketeering and contraventions of the Marine Living Resources Act.

An investigation by the SAPS Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, better known as the Hawks, over a period of more than two years found Blignaut, working with accomplices, netted more than R67 million from criminal activities including abalone poaching and trading.