In a pioneering initiative, specially trained sniffer dogs join forces with conservationists to combat plant poaching in South Africa, marking a crucial breakthrough in the battle against illegal succulent trade.
South Africa (27 November 2023) – Three remarkable Conservation Canine Unit dogs have taken the spotlight in the fight against plant poaching in the Karoo region of South Africa. Trained to detect endangered succulent plants, these furry heroes are making waves in conservation efforts.
Partnering with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), the South African Police Service (SAPS) Stock Theft and Endangered Species units, and CapeNature, this initiative is breaking new ground in safeguarding succulent plants threatened by the voracious appetite of overseas markets.
“This groundbreaking initiative marks a significant leap in South Africa’s conservation endeavours. These dogs stand as global pioneers, utilizing their keen senses to combat plant poaching,” emphasizes a scientific coordinator leading the charge against plant poaching. For security reasons, the coordinator remains unnamed to ensure their safety.
The collaborative efforts of the working group, comprising the EWT, SAPS, CapeNature, and SANBI, have already yielded tangible results, leading to the apprehension of criminals engaged in plant poaching. SANBI, at the forefront of implementing the plant-poaching response plan, is not stopping at canine assistance. The institute actively engages in plant identification workshops with various organizations, aiding law enforcement agencies in identifying confiscated plants and providing crucial information for criminal investigations.
Emily Kudze, SANBI’s senior scientific coordinator for illegal succulent trade, emphasizes the importance of raising awareness among South Africans about the escalating illicit trade of succulent flora. SANBI’s commitment extends to training traffic officers and SAPS members, resulting in successful interceptions of poachers transporting succulents. SANBI’s proactive approach doesn’t end there. Collaborating with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the institute sheds light on the severity of the issue, advocating for stricter enforcement of plant poaching laws and more severe penalties for offenders.
Despite the challenges posed by the global COVID-19 pandemic and logistical hurdles in apprehending higher-level poaching criminals, Kudze remains optimistic about the progress made.
“Law enforcement organizations are steadily closing in on the middlemen involved in the succulent poaching crisis,” she states.
To date, over one million plants have been confiscated from plant poachers, revealing the tip of the iceberg in this multi-billion-rand industry. The increasing demand for these plants emphasises the urgency of SANBI’s commitment to protecting South Africa’s biodiversity.
Kudze emphasizes that protecting biodiversity begins with creating awareness.
“Awareness is key – when you know better, you can do better,” she asserts. The collaboration between conservationists, experts, law enforcement, and communities serves as a formidable defence against poachers.