Skull and horn snatchers have struck at Addo – but authorities are making no bones about ensuring they are sniffed out.
South African National Parks (SANParks) is clamping down on horn and skull theft this holiday season after tourists visiting the Addo Elephant National Park on Monday tried to steal kudu horns and an eland skull.
SANParks spokeswoman Fayroush Ludick said it would be taking a zero-tolerance approach, following two separate incidents of attempted theft by tourists.
An elderly South African couple were nabbed with the eland skull and a young foreign couple were caught with two kudu horns during a random search as they tried to leave the park.
They were fined R1 000 and R2 000, respectively, while another visitor was fined R1 000 for getting out of a vehicle while in the park.
Senior section ranger Anban Padayachee said the foreigners had said they intended to take their bounty to friends in Cape Town.
“We explained the law to them and that the national park was a protected area before we issued the fines,” Padayachee said.
“The fines are not set by us, they are set by the local magistrate.
“We are concerned that the fines are too small but, unfortunately, we have no control over the amount.”
Padayachee said they would also be on the lookout for visitors who picked up live tortoises on the roads.
Criminal cases would be opened against people who picked up animals at the park and were keeping them without a permit.
“We urge all our visitors to be vigilant and report environmental crimes,” he said.
“We are extremely concerned about people who completely disregard the rules and regulations.”
Ludick said it was the first time that three incidents had happened on the same day in the park. “We always have people trying to leave the park with mementos, but we are taking a zero-tolerance stance going into the festive season because more people are coming into the parks,” she said.
Ludick said there had been previous incidents of visitors attempting to leave the park with plants and rocks.
One of the rules on entering is that you do not remove anything.
“We are going to step up security at all of our gates,” she said.
“We have also got sniffer dogs and they will be deployed at the gates over the holiday period.”
Ludick said visitors getting out of their vehicles in the park happened frequently, despite visible signs for lookout points around the park – which was home to some of the most dangerous animals like lions, buffaloes and elephants.