Suspected ostrich feather poachers caught

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ostrich feather REUTERS A farmworker dries dyed boa feathers at an ostrich farm outside Oudtshoorn. Photo: REUTERS

Cape Town - Five people will appear in the Oudtshoorn Magistrate's Court on Wednesday for allegedly stripping feathers off live ostriches, Western Cape police said.

Captain Malcolm Pojie said the group, aged 20 to 28, were arrested in Oudtshoorn on Monday morning.

“They are supposed to appear in court today 1/8Wednesday 3/8, but are still waiting in the cells for the case to be called,” he said.

They had been linked to five cases of ostrich feather theft since December.

Pojie said the estimated total value of the plucked feathers was R117,000.

Two people faced additional charges of theft for possession of stolen chainsaws and a drill.

“The ostrich industry has suffered substantial damage due to the stripping of ostrich feathers and we therefore hope the arrests are a deterrent to potential poachers,” Pojie said.

He said the state would oppose any bail applications by the five.

The Cape Argus reported on Tuesday that the Western Cape government's research farm in Oudtshoorn was one of the main targets of feather poachers.

Researcher Stefan Engelbrecht said it was first hit by feather thieves about a month ago, and then again recently.

About 70 birds were plucked and four were bludgeoned to death.

To date, 50 percent of ostrich farmers had reportedly left the industry because of an export ban following a bird flu outbreak in 2011, and subsequent job losses.

A new outbreak of avian flu, detected on an Oudtshoorn farm on Tuesday, was the latest possible threat to the industry. - Sapa

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