A worker at the Lion & Safari Park in Hartbeespoort was arrested after he was found with four lion cubs stolen from the park.
The foreign national was arrested on Tuesday night, 23 May, at a fuel station in Muldersdrift where he was trying to sell the cubs. According to police spokesperson Colonel Dimakatso Nevhuhulwi, members of the police’s organised crime unit received a tip-off about a person selling lions at the fuel station. “Police members rushed to the fuel station and found the cubs in boxes in the car boot. It was established that the suspect is an employee at the lion park from where he stole the cubs,” Nevhuhulwi said. He was arrested under the National Environmental Management and Biodiversity Act and appeared in court on Thursday. The cubs were returned unharmed to the Lion & Safari Park. The Lion & Safari Park said on Thursday it was deeply disheartened to report the unfortunate theft of lion cubs from its premises on May 23. “Regrettably, it has been discovered that some individuals among the park’s own employees were involved in this distressing incident. The organisation condemns such actions and is committed to taking appropriate action against those responsible,” said Sipho Dlamini, operations manager of the Lion & Safari Park. “Lion & Safari Park would like to extend its sincere gratitude to the members of the Organized Crime Head Office, SAPS, and all other parties who were prompt in their response and displayed unwavering commitment to the resolution of this matter. Their tireless efforts played a vital role in the swift recovery of the stolen lion cubs.” Dlamini said the lion cubs are now safe and back under the care of Lion & Safari Park. “Following a comprehensive examination by our team of skilled animal caretakers, we are relieved to confirm that the cubs were unharmed during their time away from the park. Their well-being remains our utmost priority, and they continue to receive the highest level of care and attention.” He said the park would provide its full support to the authorities to determine the circumstances surrounding this incident and to ensure that justice is served. “Updates regarding the investigation will be provided as soon as they become available. We understand the concerns raised by this unfortunate incident and wish to reassure visitors, supporters, and the public that the organisation remains steadfast in its mission to protect and preserve the wildlife within its care.”