Two German nationals arrested for dealing in endangered reptiles

Two people were recently rearrested for the illegal possession of reptiles, including species that are threatened and protected.

Two German nationals are expected to appear in the Kempton Park Magistrate’s Court on charges relating to the illegal possession of reptiles.

The suspects, who were arrested in November 2021 for the illegal trade and possession of reptiles and controlled substances, have been rearrested on similar charges as they walked out of court in Upington on Thursday.

According to Albi Modise, spokesperson for the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), Daniel Lohde and Marko Drescher entered a plea agreement admitting to the possession of and illegal trade on Cites (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) list.

“The men were arrested last year near Askam in the Northern Cape following a multi-agency reptile undercover operation comprising the DFFE’s Green Scorpions and the Hawks, assisted by the Environmental Crime Fusion Centre, police, SANParks environmental crime inspectors, the Northern Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and the private sector,” explained Modise.

“They were nabbed while catching reptiles, including armadillo girdled lizards, which are a threatened and protected species, giant ground geckos, several other lizards and four tortoises in the Northern Cape with the intention to smuggle them out of South Africa.

“All tortoises are listed by Cites which regulates the international trade in these species.”

Modise also said in terms of the plea agreement, both men were convicted on all four counts. Lohde was sentenced to a total of 11 years’ imprisonment or an R175 000 fine, wholly suspended for five years and Drescher was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment or a fine of R175 000, wholly suspended for five years.

“The sentences were suspended on condition that neither be convicted of contravening the Northern Cape Nature Conservation Act as well as certain sections of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act within five years,” said Modise.

“Lohde has also been ordered to pay R350 000 and Drescher R100 000 into the DFFE’s account for the purpose of the proper execution of the environmental management inspectorate’s enforcement duties to address the illegal trade of succulents in South Africa, particularly in the Northern Cape.”

Both men were declared unfit to possess a firearm.

As a result of ongoing investigations, both men have been rearrested on similar charges linked to a case in Gauteng.

More arrests are expected in the Gauteng matter. The men are expected to appear in the Kempton Park Magistrate’s Court.

“The collaboration by all members of the multi-disciplinary team is to be commended.

Without the dedication of the Green Scorpions, members of the security establishment, the National Prosecuting Authority, provincial officials and the private sector, we will not be able to win the war against wildlife crime.”

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