'Muthi' donkeys rescued

2017-02-07 12:00
SPCA staff Nazareth Appalsamy (left) and Garth Nortje comfort a foal at the Sani Pass SPCA on Monday. The foal was born hours after the donkeys were impounded. INSET: Mati Makatsu and morena Dlomo appeared at the Himesvelle Magistrate's Court on Monday.

SPCA staff Nazareth Appalsamy (left) and Garth Nortje comfort a foal at the Sani Pass SPCA on Monday. The foal was born hours after the donkeys were impounded. INSET: Mati Makatsu and morena Dlomo appeared at the Himesvelle Magistrate's Court on Monday. (Ian Carbutt)

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Pietermaritzburg - A man and woman facing charges of skinning 34 donkeys alive two weeks ago near Sani Pass, sat smiling and chuckling together at the Himesville Magistrate’s Court on Monday.

Lesotho nationals Morena Dlomo and Mati Makatsu were arrested on charges of animal cruelty on January 26 at Sani Pass near the Lesotho border after they were allegedly caught red-handed by the Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife (EKZNW), skinning donkeys alive.

Dlomo and Makatsu were two of seven people allegedly found at the site where 18 donkeys had been skinned, but were allegedly the only two caught skinning the donkeys. Seventeen more donkeys were found later, near the first site, but one survived.

It is thought the donkey skins are used in Chinese medicine as they believe the gelatine in the skin relieves insomnia, has anti-aging properties and improves blood circulation.

The 34 donkeys that were skinned alive and died were part of a group of 204 donkeys, but the remainder — 169 live donkeys — had disappeared by the time officials went back to the site the next day to rescue them.

More arrests

However, another dramatic rescue by the Sani Pass SPCA and EKZNW of 35 more donkeys, including four pregnant mares, near the Lesotho border on Saturday, saw four more people being arrested. Just hours later one of the mares gave birth to a foal at the Sani Pass SPCA in the early hours of Sunday morning. The other mares are expected to deliver soon.

Dlomo and Makatsu on Monday applied for bail. Judgment is expected to be delivered on Tuesday.

The State has opposed their bail on the grounds that they are considered to be a flight risk.

Dlomo and Makatsu’s attorneys argued that the pair should be granted bail on a number of reasons, including that the two ran a business in South Africa selling sheep and goats and their prolonged incarceration would “prejudice” their financial situation.

The court also heard that the State witness, investigating officer, Himeville’s Sergeant Emmanuel Gumede, had not verified the legitimacy of Makatsu and Dlomo’s passports and had not verified whether they had work permits or family living in South Africa.

Dlomo’s attorney, E.B. Zaca, said the two accused had been in police custody for 10 days. Zaca said it would not be in the interests of justice to keep the two in custody.

The case was adjourned for the bail judgment due to time constraints on Monday.

'They died of shock and of pain'

Sani Pass SPCA manager Garth Nortje said the four people who were caught with 35 more donkeys this past weekend were arrested on charges of smuggling, trespassing and bringing an alien animal into a reserve. They were arrested just over the Lesotho border.

He said they could not be charged with animal cruelty as they were not found harming the animals and the donkeys in their possession were not injured enough to prove intent.

He said he took one of the bodies of the donkeys that were found two weeks ago to the state vet, who said the donkey’s spinal cord had been severed and it had then been skinned.

Nortje said according to the state vet, the donkeys were paralysed when they were skinned, but still able to feel everything.

“They died of shock and of pain,” said Nortje. He added that they could have taken minutes or hours to die and that it would have been extremely painful.

He said there was concern that the Lesotho border was being used as an “arterial route” for transporting donkeys to Lesotho’s capital, Maseru, from where there were direct flights to Beijing.

Nortje said they were hoping to raise funds to employ more inspectors in their area.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife spokesperson Musa Mntambo said that they would be engaging border management agencies in an attempt to stop the skinning and transporting of donkeys.

“We are going to increase our law enforcement operation within South African borders inside the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park,” said Mntambo.

“We are going to engage with Lesotho law enforcement authorities through bilateral security mechanisms.”

Read more on:    animal cruelty  |  pietermaritzburg

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