29 June 2006
South Africa’s first group of environmental inspectors have completed their training and, from July, will start tackling environmental criminals in the country.
The government introduced environmental management inspectors – dubbed “Green Scorpions” – in 2005 in order to protect South Africa’s natural resources.
Gauteng province’s fledgling Environmental Management Inspectorate (EMI) has already stung syndicates peddling illegal elephant ivory tusks and forbidden plants.
Working with the police, the EMI’s special investigation unit arrested one person last week after raiding a house in Johannesburg. Over 400 ornaments produced from ivory tusks illegally imported from Zimbabwe were seized.
According to the provincial department of agriculture, conservation and environment, the raid also produced documents with details of curio shops, individual customers and large businesses suspected to be linked to this illegal trade.
In a separate operation earlier this month, the EMI raided the mail centre at Johannesburg International Airport and impounded 14 boxes containing over 800 plants illegally imported from Namibia.
Five suspects were subsequently arrested.
The department is working with the national Department of Agriculture, customs officials and the Namibian and South African National Botanical Gardens to identify the plant species in preparation for a court case.
“We consider these breakthroughs as symbolic of successes expected from the Environmental Management Inspectorate,” the department said in a statement.