Nokuthula Khanyile & Sharika Regchand – The Witness
In a rare case for Pietermaritzburg, a couple appeared briefly in court for being in possession of an elephant tusk valued at about R400 000.
Altaaf Dawood (28), who is no stranger to the local courthouse, and his wife Alia (27) were arrested at about 9 pm on Sunday night. They are charged under the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act for being involved in “restricted activity involving threatened or protected species without a permit”.
While Alia was granted R1 000 bail, the state is opposed to Altaaf being released because he has a pending case where he is charged with murder.
It is alleged he killed Cebolethu Ngcobo (17) on Saturday, May 21, 2017 near the mosque on Church Street. In this matter, he is out on R10 000 bail. He has not yet pleaded to the charge.
The case was set down several times for trial last year but was adjourned. On one occasion, Dawood told the court he was suffering from “acute stress disorder” and was not in the right frame of mind to concentrate. This was apparently because his mother was critically ill in hospital and Dawood was very worried about her.
Other delays led to the case being adjourned to May.
Dawood, who is now in custody, will appear in court again next week for a formal bail application in relation to the elephant tusk.
The Witness has been reliably informed that the ivory, which was found wrapped in a black plastic bag, is currently with the Pietermaritzburg Stock Theft unit.
The one-metre long elephant tusk valued at about R400 000.
Well-placed police sources said that the couple allegedly intended to sell the metre-long elephant tusk.
Patrolling members of the Pietermaritzburg’s K9 unit intercepted the alleged traffickers driving a green VW Golf on Old Greytown Road after noticing the vehicle “driving erratically”, a source said.
“The vehicle was searched, and the elephant ivory was found wrapped in plastic in the back,” a source said.
Save the Elephants estimates that 100 000 elephants were killed for their ivory in Africa between 2010 and 2012.
Possessing ivory without a permit is illegal and so is the sale of ivory.
Ivory is often carved into ornaments and jewellery — China is the biggest consumer market for such products. Selling ivory was banned worldwide in 1989, but the ban has been lifted several times, so there is still a lot of ivory on sale.
According to the Environmental Affairs Department, elephant poaching in South Africa is on the increase.
Last year, Minister Nomvula Mokonyane said in a statement that a total of 71 elephants were poached in the Kruger National Park between January 1 and December 31, 2018. In 2017, 32 elephants were killed.
“Specific risk areas have been identified and strategies to address the threat are being adapted and implemented. One elephant was killed in KwaZulu-Natal, which brings the total for South Africa to 72 elephants for 2018,” Mokonyane said.
According to SANParks spokesperson Ike Phaahla, 184 poaching suspects were arrested in 2018.
“In terms of arrests, we had 184 suspects who are facing various charges and those cases are in court as we speak, and in those arrests, we managed to confiscate 92 high-powered hunting rifles.”
He said elephants were endangered because many countries have lost most of their herds and southern Africa has viable populations.
SANParks has just launched Operation Ivory in Xanatseni, the main focus of which is to prevent elephant poaching.