Mahikeng man, teenager suspected of pangolin trafficking held by Hawks

Ben Khosietsile alleged Pangolin trafficker. Picture: Supplied

Ben Khosietsile alleged Pangolin trafficker. Picture: Supplied

Published Mar 21, 2024


The suspects were apprehended by the Hawks Serious Organised Crime Investigation in Mahikeng, North West, on Tuesday, after the Hawks received information about two men reported to be selling a pangolin in Setlagole.

The pair was arrested just after the transaction occurred.

The accused, 54-year-old man, Ben Khosietsile, along with a 17-year-old minor, appeared in the Atamelang Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, facing charges of wildlife trafficking in contravention of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004.

Khosietsile and his co-accused each received a bail of R2 000 and are expected to appear again next month on April 23.

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the world’s leading conservation organisation, the digital era has exacerbated pangolin trafficking, because traffickers sell these endangered species on everyday sites illegally.

Pangolin trafficking is prohibited under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The organisation further explained that pangolins fall prey to traffickers because their meat is considered a delicacy in countries like Vietnam, China and America. Their skin is used to produce leather products, from belts, boots and bags which is common in America and Mexico.

Also, pangolin scales are used to produce traditional medicine in China. It’s believed their scales cure various ailments, although it has not been scientifically proven.

WWF highlighted the intensity of pangolin poaching: over 1 million of these creatures were poached in the past 10 years, while approximately 195 000 of these species were trafficked in 2019 for only their scales.

WWF, with TRAFFIC and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) are organisations in the same streamline as WWF. They stated that since China and Vietnam were free markets for pangolins, it threatened the extinction of these species, as they are mainly illegally sourced in African countries. A total of 23.5 tons of pangolins were trafficked in 2021.

Moreover, the three organisations partnered to form the Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online in 2018, in order to end online trafficking of pangolins. The coalition reported over 3.3 million listings that violated wildlife policies in 2020.