Hefty fine for zebra poacher

2010-07-14 00:00

RETIRED police officer Johannes Erasmus (56) was yesterday sentenced to fines totalling R10 000 (or 360 days’ imprisonment) and to one year’s imprisonment conditionally suspended for five years for the illegal hunting of a zebra in the Camperdown district in August 2008.

In addition, Camperdown Magistrate Thys Taljaard granted an order prohibiting Erasmus from possessing a firearm in the future.

His son, Dewald Erasmus (20), was fined R5 000 (or 180 days’ imprisonment).

Father and son were arrested on Piece of Mind farm near the Lion Park in possession of a dead Burchell’s Zebra mare on August 16 2008.

A third accused, Willem McCullum, was acquitted.

Taljaard took into account that Dewald Erasmus was only 18 when the offences were committed, and that he acted under the influence of his father.

In favour of Johannes Erasmus, Taljaard had regard to evidence that he has suffered enormous financial prejudice arising from the offences. This included the fact that he lost his house, as well as his Toyota Hilux bakkie, which was seized by the Asset Forfeiture Unit and later declared as a forfeit to the state.

Erasmus senior also lost a part-time job serving summonses on behalf of the Metro traffic police as a result of his conviction and the loss of his transport, the court was told.

However, Taljaard said it was aggravating that Erasmus senior was formerly an experienced police officer.

“I am sure that as a police officer in this area you must have either investigated or come across cases of poaching. Although you have now left the force, the fact that you have ended up doing this yourself cannot be condoned.”

He said the accused maintained their innocence throughout, indicating that they had no remorse for their actions.

He said there was no doubt that poaching is a prevalent crime in the area, as testified to by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife investigator Rod Potter.

Potter testified that although, on average, one or two cases are reported [and registered] by police weekly in the Camperdown, Ashburton and Eston districts, there are many more cases of poaching that are unreported.

He said a problem experienced by landowners is reluctance by the police, in some instances, to register cases.

He said that landowners who manage conservancies or game farms are required to go to a great deal of expense to protect the game such as providing game guards.

It is difficult to catch poachers. Potter said it is a daunting prospect for private landowners to confront illegal hunters — whether they have dogs or firearms — and they have to wait for support. By the time support arrives, the poachers have escaped.

Erasmus and his son were granted leave to appeal.

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