Lion cubs rescued from smugglers
Charné Kemp, Volksblad
Kimberley - Two young lion cubs that were presumably smuggled across the Botswana border into South Africa at McCarthy’s Rest were found in the possession of three men during a police trap between Kuruman and Hotazel on Thursday morning.
The three suspected smugglers were arrested and the Kalahari lion cubs were taken to a place of safety.
It was the second incident in a month in which wild cats were allegedly smuggled across the border. Last month, a cheetah was also smuggled across the border.
Kuruman police station commander Colonel Sampie Koopman said information had been received regarding a possible transaction involving lions.
The National Prosecuting Authority and the Green Scorpions were involved.
“The cattle theft unit and crime intelligence unit set a trap. This morning at about 02:00 we stopped a vehicle on the road between Hotazel and Kuruman. There were three men in the vehicle. We also found the two lion cubs. The blackmarket value of the lions is R500 000," Koopman said on Thursday.
He added that they were grateful for the information received from the public.
Northern Cape deputy director of nature conservation and environmental affairs, Obopeng Gaorelwe, said the lion cubs were male and female and were about two months old.
They were probably from the free ranging Kalahari lions found in Botswana. It is unclear what had happened to their mother.
Local vet Dr Gerhard van der Westhuizen examined the cubs on Thursday morning and said they were weak due to exposure to rain.
“They drank milk twice. It was initially difficult for the cubs to get used to the bottle.”
The three suspected smugglers - two Botswana nationals and a South African with dual-nationality - will appear in the Kuruman Magistrate’s Court on Monday. They will be charged with the illegal importation and possession of protected animals without the necessary permits.
It would be the first trial under the new Northern Cape Nature Conservation Act, which makes provision for more serious sentences.