OWNERS of African pygmy hedgehogs in the province have until the end of the month to hand them over to the Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism.
The department said many owners were unaware that it was illegal to have the animals as pets. They had until February 28 to voluntarily hand them over to environmental offices, or face prosecution.
It said information circulating that a permit was not required for certain wild animals was incorrect.
According to the Eastern Cape Nature and Environmental Conservation Ordinance 19 of 1974, it is illegal for any person to keep any wild animal in captivity in the province without a permit.
According to the department, it is not known whether the African pygmy hedgehog poses a threat to the province’s indigenous hedgehog, atelerix frontalis.
“Anyone found trading in hedgehogs, transporting them or keeping them in captivity, without permits from the department after the amnesty period has lapsed, will be prosecuted,” the department said.