Reptiles hawked illegally on the road to Sun City

2014-02-07 11:00
A photo of an endangered desert tortoise at the proposed location of three solar-energy generation complexes in the eastern Mojave Desert, California. (Reed Saxon, AP, file)

A photo of an endangered desert tortoise at the proposed location of three solar-energy generation complexes in the eastern Mojave Desert, California. (Reed Saxon, AP, file)

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Johannesburg - The NSPCA has condemned the sale of tortoises and chameleons by roadside hawkers in the North West.

"A chameleon goes for about R300 or R400, depending on what type of car they [the buyers] are driving," National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals wildlife unit manager Ainsley Hay said on Friday.

A tortoise goes for around the same price.

"It is unfortunate but very common, especially on the roads heading toward Sun City... and people are buying them," she said.

"They [the hawkers] know those roads bring lots of tourists who have lots of money to buy them."


People thought they were rescuing the reptiles but they were not, she said.

"It's illegal, and for every one [reptile] that they buy another five will be caught to replace them because they are creating a demand for it."

The NSPCA, on its website, said the tortoises and chameleons were captured by local people and kept in poor conditions without food or water.

"They [the reptiles] face days, weeks or months of deprivation waiting for a vehicle to stop and for money to exchange hands. Many will die before they are sold," it said.

"Others would die later from stress. More still will succumb without the necessary skills required for the long-term care of these complex creatures."

It was illegal to own, keep, breed, buy, sell or transport any indigenous reptile without a valid permit.

The NSPCA said the traders were always alert to possible patrols by nature conservation officials.


"And should an official be seen approaching this is quickly communicated by means of cellular phones," it said.

"The criminals run off into the veld with their reptile prisoners before arrests can be made and the rescue of animals can take place. These people are often armed and dangerous."

Hay said the reptiles had been removed from their natural habitats and hawkers found them in areas surrounding nature reserves.

"There have been numerous arrests but the courts don't seem to take this very seriously," she explained.

"Hawkers are being repeatedly arrested and getting off with a slap on the wrist. Courts are not adequately prosecuting them."

Hay said the NSPCA could not confiscate the reptiles because they did not enforce the nature conservation ordinances being broken.

She said the best thing for people to do was to drive away and report the matter to the North West nature conservation authorities.

"Jail time and a very large fine would be ideal because there's nothing stopping these people [hawkers] from doing it."


Read more on:    nspca  |  reptiles

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