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Plant poachers target SA's endangered succulents as international demand grows

19 August 2021 5:32 PM
Tags:
Conservation
CapeNature
plant poaching

CapeTalk host Pippa Hudson chats to SAPS detective Captain Karel du Toit about the increasing theft of SA's endangered plants.
  • Many of South Africa’s rare and endangered plants are under threat amid a rising poaching spree
  • Local plant poachers are apparently selling rare plants to international collectors to make a quick buck
  • Detective Captain Karel du Toit says the poaching of succulents is on the rise with increasing demand from Asian markets

Local conservation authority CapeNature has urged the public to report illegal plant trafficking. Image: CapeNature

Illegal plant trafficking is on the rise in South Africa amid a growing global wave of succulent poaching.

According to Detective Captain Karel du Toit, the increasing demand is mostly driven by collectors from China and Korea.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, it's understood that international syndicates have been paying locals to traffic rare plants found in the wild, especially in the Western Cape and Northern Cape.

CapeNature recently raised the alarm over the scourge of succulent plant poaching in the Western Cape.

Captain Du Toit leads the police's stock theft and endangered species unit in Namakwa and says since 2018, plant poaching accounts for at least 80% of the cases his unit investigates.

The detective says plant smugglers aren't yet as dangerous or organised as rhino poachers, however, the illegal trade is becoming a growing problem.

According to a recent New York Times investigation, most poachers are illegally harvesting Conophytum succulents.

Du Toit says police officers are working closely with conservation groups to combat plant poaching which is threatening South Africa's biodiversity and ecotourism sector.

The demand for plants was there all the time. Before Covid-19, there were many people from the Asian market involved in poaching which was prosecuted through the Stock Theft Unit. When locked down happened, then they used local people for collecting plants.

Captain Karel du Toit, Commander of Namakwa Stock Theft and Endangered Species Unit - SAPS

The local people who are involved... are not as organised as the people who do rhino poaching. They are misused by the Asian market mostly for extra money.

Captain Karel du Toit, Commander of Namakwa Stock Theft and Endangered Species Unit - SAPS

It's currently not so organised and not very dangerous but it has started increasing and is becoming a problem.

Captain Karel du Toit, Commander of Namakwa Stock Theft and Endangered Species Unit - SAPS



19 August 2021 5:32 PM
Tags:
Conservation
CapeNature
plant poaching

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