A SA couple has been sentenced for illegally exporting vulnerable cymbal lizards

A SA couple has been sentenced for illegally exporting vulnerable cymbal lizards

Husband and wife Gerald and Elisha van der Westhuizen were found guilty on Monday and sentenced at Kempton Park Magistrates’ Court for the illegal export of vulnerable Snegizer lizards and money laundering.

“It is necessary to recognize that biodiversity crime, unlike other forms of crime, is a time-critical issue. Our natural resources are finite and may have lasting consequences,” read the payment and sentencing agreement between the prosecutor and the accused.

Sungazers, a species endemic to southern Africa, are listed as vulnerable in International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species and locally in 2014 Atlas and Red List of Reptiles of Southern Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland.

The couple were sentenced after pleading guilty to five counts of exporting CITES-listed species without authorization and four counts of money laundering and using the proceeds of illegal business.

Export of Snugger lizards conflicts with National Environmental Management: The Biodiversity Act (Nimba).

Gerald van der Westhuizen, accused of exporting endangered species, was ordered to pay a fine of 1 million rand, half of which was suspended for five years on the condition that he not be found guilty of the Nimba offense in the next five years.

Elisha van der Westhuizen, who was accused of laundering the money the couple received for the sex, was sentenced to five years in prison, suspended for five years on the condition that she not conflict with Nemba during that time.

How did the investigation go?

On May 24, 2019, South African Revenue Service customs officials were conducting a routine inspection at the OR Tambo International Postal Center when they found a parcel en route to Germany containing six baby lizards, two of whom had died.

The packaging was advertised as a “gift and candy doll”, with the lizards hidden inside the stuffed toy.

More than two years later, on November 19, 2021Two German nationals, Daniel Lude and Marco Drescher, were arrested in the Northern Cape and convicted of illegal possession of listed reptiles and attempted export.

At the time, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) in a statement that the arrests were the result of a “multi-agency secret reptilian operation”.

She said: “The collaboration of all members of the multidisciplinary team is commendable. Without the dedication of the Green Scorpions team, members of the security establishment, regional officials, and the private sector, we will not be able to win the war against wildlife crime.”

During the arrest, the German citizens’ phones were legally confiscated, which is how Green Scorpions investigators were able to link Van der Westhuizens to the crime. They find WhatsApp conversations, audio notes and photos between Lohde and Gerald van der Westhuizen about the export of sungazer lizards.

Guilty plea

The accused, represented by attorney Krystal Kivi, entered into an agreement with the public prosecutor, Peter Erasmus.

Gerald van der Westhuizen pleaded guilty to illegally and willfully exporting the six lizards found in OR Tambo on May 24, 2019, as well as to exporting the species listed in Cites to Germany between April 16 and May 7, 2019 (before the OR Tambo incident), and to exporting the species to Mexico between June 21 and August 6, 2021 – a total of 18 attempted export sungazer ldizde).

Sungazers are listed as a vulnerable species….. (Photo: Bradley Gibbons/EWT)

of endangered species

Viewers “are in a unique type of grassland, which makes them a habitat specialist, and [they] It is not easily transmitted, as many individuals do not survive through the process.”

Sungazers are listed as a vulnerable species, meaning they face a significant risk of extinction in the wild in the medium term future.

“They’re popular in the pet trade because of their distinctive posture and how easygoing they are,” Gibbons explained.

Besides the use of Sungazers as live pets, the use of dead individuals for traditional purposes is when individuals are taken from the wild for use as a giver. [traditional medicine] In addition to various forms of superstition-based beliefs to provide protection. DM

To read all about The Gathering: Earth Edition published by Daily Maverick recently, click here here.


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