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Police officers trapped while attempting to sell pangolin

TWO police officers who were searching for buyers in a town southeast of Zimbabwe’s capital were intercepted during an intelligence-driven operation on June 8 and face a minimum mandatory sentence of nine years if convicted on charges of possession of specially protected animal species.

Possession of a pangolin in Zimbabwe warrants a minimum mandatory sentence of nine for first offenders and 11 years for second offender.

Assistant Inspector Kololo Kasiyama, 37, Sergeant Vhimba Marufu, 40, and 33-year-old Remember Mavhudzi were arrested at Total garage in Rusape by police detectives whom they thought were ‘potential pangolin buyers.”

They had sought to sell the endangered species for US$6,000.

Police spokesperson Paul Nyathi said the on the 7th day of July 2022, at around 1500hrs, detectives Minerals, Flora and Fauna Unit and officials from International Anti-poaching foundation received a tip-off to the effect that the accused persons were in possession of a pangolin.

“The team reacted to the information and drove to Rusape where they started communicating posing as buyers and they agreed to meet on the next day for finalisation of the deal,” Nyathi said.

“On the 8th of July 2022, at around 1900hrs, the team then met accused at Total garage, Rusape who were in a Silver Toyota Quantum with the pangolin that was in a silo sack in their vehicle.

‘The Detectives identified themselves and the accused persons tried to flee. The detectives fired a warning shot and the accused persons were arrested. The pangolin was recovered as an exhibit.”

Elsewhere, police in Nkayi on Saturday arrested Ndaniso Mpande (33) and Benjamin Ndlovu (23) for being found in possession of a live Pangolin at Mlotshana shopping centre, Inyathi.

Pangolins are among the most endangered species in the world. Their scales are made of keratin and are highly prized in Asia. Police in Zimbabwe say a month rarely passes with no pangolin-related arrest.

A spike in seizures of elephant ivory from people emboldened enough to be trying to sell it openly in markets, from their houses, and even at a fuel station, has also raised concerns among conservationists about the growing threat of poaching.