Stiff term for poacher

2011-03-11 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL’S conservation bodies have welcomed a five-year jail sentence imposed by an Ingwavuma regional magistrate on a 54-year-old man, Makotikoti Zikhali of Kwangwanase, who was found guilty last week of killing an endangered loggerhead turtle in 2009.

The poaching incident occurred in iSimangaliso Wetland Park, which is one of the last remaining breeding sites for loggerhead turtles in the world.

According to a press statement issued jointly by iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife this week, park officials on a routine patrol in December 2009 came across Zikhali chopping up the carcass of a mature female loggerhead turtle which had come on to the beach to lay her eggs. The turtle had been tagged by marine scientists just three days earlier for the purposes of monitoring the endangered species.

According to the press release the magistrate found that the offence was so serious it outweighed the fact that Zikhali was a first offender. The court took into account that many people in the local community depend on turtles for jobs in the tourism industry.

Zikhali pleaded not guilty to the charges and denied he had killed or possessed the turtle, claiming to have been in the area attempting to fish.

Evidence for the state was led by Ezemvelo arresting officer Eric Mlaba and Ezemvelo marine ecologist Dr Scotty Kyle.

iSimangaliso Authority CEO Andrew Zaloumis said: “We are encouraged by the seriousness with which the court has treated this matter. Loggerhead turtles are endangered and are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) to which South Africa is signatory. They also have an important role in the growing tourism industry in the Park which is one of the only growing employment generators in the region.”

Zaloumis added that revenue from turtle tourism amounts to about R3 million per annum.

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