RUSTENBURG - A very rare male African pangolin, a highly endangered species, has been recovered after allegedly being stolen from the Rampampa Mountains just outside Mabeeskraal in Mogwase, North West police said on Sunday.
"The animal was allegedly stolen and brought to Rustenburg on Wednesday, 1 August 2018," Captain Elsabé Augoustides said.
Following a tip-off from members of the community, the pangolin was found in possession of two people at the Rustenburg minibus taxi tank.
"The suspects had the petrified animal inside a plastic bag and were about to leave with it in a taxi when members of the Phokeng stock theft unit pounced on them," she said.
According to information received, the taxi was stopped and searched. During the search, the animal, with an estimated value of R400,000, was found. Preliminary investigation revealed that the suspects were about to sell the pangolin for R20,000.
"The pangolin is regarded as one of the world’s most sought after endangered species. It was handed over for safekeeping to an animal expert, who is responsible for its transportation to the Hospital for Vulnerable Animals in Johannesburg.
"It is alleged that pangolins, whose whole bodies are covered in scales, are caught due to unfounded beliefs of the great medicinal value of their scales," Augoustides said.
The two accused, Surprise Moyani Nkomezulu, 25 and Tlhobogang Daniel Mantsho, 34, had appeared in the Rustenburg Magistrate's Court on Friday.
They were released on R2500 bail each and would appear in the same court again on August 31, she said.
Rustenburg policing cluster commander Maj-Gen Arthur Adams commended the officers of the stock theft unit for their swift reaction that led to the rescue of the pangolin and apprehension of the two accused.
Nature conservation was everyone's priority and police would ensure that endangered species were fiercely protected, he said. Adams also expressed sincere appreciation to members of the community for their contribution to the success.
African News Agency (ANA)