[imagesource: Flickr / Alan Levine]
The Western Cape houses one of the most unique biodiversity ecosystems in the world, the Cape Floristic Region.
It has thousands of species of flora and fauna that are endemic (they occur nowhere else in the world) and attracts visitors from across the globe as a result.
The West Coast’s Spring flower bloom has to be seen to be believed.
Unfortunately, the province also attracts unsavoury characters looking to make a sizeable buck by illegally harvesting flora, reports TimesLIVE:
Three Saudi nationals have been fined R2m for having a huge quantity of flora… without documentation. They were also found guilty of money laundering…
They were instructed to pay R2m to the criminal assets recovery account and the Western Cape Nature Conservation Board.
As part of their plea and sentencing agreement, the trio admitted that they had planned the trip for the sole purpose of stealing plants to take back to a farm in Saudi Arabia.
After arriving in early October, they enlisted the help of four locals to aid with targeting species in the area where they had booked accommodation.
They were arrested after their vehicle was stopped at the N7 Kliprand and Pofadder crossing at Bitterfontein by the Malmesbury Stock Theft and Endangered Species Unit:
Advocate Aradhana Heeramun argued on behalf of the prosecution that the illegal trade in wild plants and animals was one of the five largest illegal activities in the world, along with the drugs trade, weapons smuggling and human trafficking.
This is not a problem limited to the Western Cape, either. Succulent smuggling in the Northern Cape is also on the rise and over the past three years, the number of plants confiscated from poachers by the South African Police Service (SAPS) has increased annually by over 250%.
Along with the R2 million fine, the trio were sentenced to an effective seven years each, “suspended for five years on condition that they are not arrested for possession of flora without permission and money laundering during the period of suspension”.
They were given 48 hours to leave the country and here’s hoping they’ve also been banned from ever returning.
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