Four arrested for endangered Watsonias

2016-10-11 11:28
The critically endangered Watsonias have been taken to the safety of an Ezemvelo nursery.

The critically endangered Watsonias have been taken to the safety of an Ezemvelo nursery. (Supplied)

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The illegal removal of several critically endangered plants from the World’s View conservancy has led to four people being arrested.

Two women and a man were spotted allegedly uprooting Watsonia plants from the conservatory and placing them into large bags.

The trio were seen by a Hilton woman riding her bike through the area, who immediately reported the matter.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the Hilton police arrived at the conservancy with Ezemvelo officials identifying the plants as the critically endangered Watsonia.

Ezemvelo spokesperson Musa Mntambo said the three told their staff and the police that they had been dropped off in the area by their supervisor, who allegedly works at The Quarry shopping centre.

The three alleged that their supervisor had told them to uproot the Watsonias so they could be planted at The Quarry.

Mntambo said the supervisor arrived to fetch the gatherers and all four were taken to Hilton police station, where they were charged with possession and uprooting without a permit.

According to the South African National Biodiversity Institute (Sanbi) website, the expanding agriculture and timber plantations in the country have caused a significant loss of the Watsonia’s habitat and fragmented the population into small, isolated sub-populations.

Sanbi said numbers of the plant continue to decline due to ongoing habitat loss and the spread of mismanaged alien invasive plants. Mntambo said the uprooted plants had been placed in an Ezemvelo nursery where they are safe.

Mary Collins, of Collins Property Group, The Quarry’s developer, said she had heard nothing about the incident and was “ashamed” that it had occurred.

“It should not have happened. It is terrible and we will look into it.”

Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngobese said a case of possession and uprooting without a permit was being investigated by the police.

Four people — Derek Ramsay, Slindile Mbanjwa, Samkele Zondi and Zinig Nene — appeared briefly in court yesterday in connection with the case. They are charged with contravening the Nature Conservation Act for possessing and gathering a specially protected indigenous plant without a permit.

The charge sheet alleges they possessed three bags containing 130 Watsonia plants. The case was postponed to November 4 for further investigation.

All four accused were released on warning.

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