Eastern Cape police have warned livestock owners to be more vigilant with their animals.Since the beginning of the festive season, police in the province have recovered abandoned, straying and unattended livestock.Police spokesperson Captain Khaya Tonjeni pleaded with owners to herd their animals or appoint a shepherd to look after them, to prevent their animals from going astray which at times has resulted in road fatalities.Tonjeni also warned rural communities to be on the lookout whenever people are driving their animals in vehicles."Some of the abandoned houses in the rural areas are used by livestock thieves as a temporary storage until they are taken to the next destination. To those who are undertaking traditional ceremonies, funerals and other rituals we encourage them to double check the ownership of livestock to avoid buying stolen animals," he said.READ: Waging war on stock theftTonjeni said three suspects aged 27, 35 and 53, appeared in the Mthatha Magistrate’s Court on Monday, on a charge of stock theft, after they were found in possession of stolen cattle in Qokolweni. They had been stolen in Zimbane.The animals belonged to the local chief in the area, and were part of a lobola payment. The cattle has since been returned to their lawful owner.In another matter, two men aged 23 and 24 appeared on Monday in the Cradock Magistrate’s Court for stock theft.The men were arrested by police who were patrolling around Molenhof in Cradock when they spotted the suspects loading five sheep into a bakkie. READ: KZN police clamp down on bullish livestock thievesMeanwhile, Qumbu police have taken away six goats found straying at Qhankqu location, Sulenkama, to be kept at an animal pound while they trace the rightful owner."Mthatha police have also recovered 11 sheep that were found in an abandoned house. The animals were taken to Mthatha stock pound for safekeeping until the rightful owner has been identified," he said. Mbizana Stock Theft Unit recovered three cows in Qumbu. No one was arrested. All the animals have been positively identified by the owner. The police also recovered 20 sheep kept in the bush at Mawusheni location. Tonjeni said the sheep were found tied up inside a shack. The owner was located and positively identified all 20 sheep and claimed that 16 more sheep are missing. KEEP UPDATED on the latest news by subscribing to our FREE newsletter.