In this file photo taken on June 15, 2014, lions yawn in the Madikwe Game Reserve. (AP Photo/Kevin Anderson)

Johannesburg - Eight suspects have been arrested for allegedly being in possession of lion bones, meat and tiger skin.

The suspects, two South Africans and six foreign nationals aged between 22 years old and 60 years old, were arrested by the Hawks’ North West Serious Organised Crime Unit with the assistance of the crime intelligence, Klerksdorp Tactical Response Team (TRT), Potchefstroom Flying Squad and the Department of Nature Conservation.

Hawks provincial spokesperson Captain Tlangelani Rikhotso said the operation leading to the arrests had been happening for some time.

“The team intercepted two vehicles at the intersection of N12 and Dominionville, Klerksdorp, driving in a convoy headed to an unused farm in Mareetsane. 

“A search of both vehicles the team recovered lion bones, lion meat, a tiger skin, gas cylinders, gas burners, containers, a saw, knives and other equipment which is believed to have been used to process the lion bones,” Rikhotso said.

"After the arrest, the suspects took the officers to a farm approximately 30km from Klerksdorp where the lions were allegedly slaughtered.

“At the farm, a lion skin was found dumped in the bush and large machines which are believed to have been the instruments for cutting the bones were also found in the garage,” Rikhotso said.

Rikhotso said the suspects,  including a Vietnamese national, were to make their first court appearance on Tuesday at the Klerksdorp Magistrate’s Court.

They have been charged with the illegal possession of game products and without a permit, carrying out restricted activities involving a specimen of a listed, threatened or protected species.

Rikhotso said they believe more arrests were imminent and encouraged the public to come forward should they have any information on the case.