Cycad poacher given ‘record’ 10-year jail-term

In what could be a first for South Africa, a cycad poacher was recently sentenced to an effective 10 years in jail by an Eastern Cape court.

Current statistics showed that three Encephalartos cycad species were now extinct in the wild.
Photo: FW Archive

A statement issued by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) said that Sibusiso Khumalo and three accomplices were arrested by police in 2014 for trying to smuggle 12 protected Karoo cycads (Encephalartos lehmannii) from the Eastern Cape to Gauteng.

The EWT reported that Magistrate Rene Esterhuizen sentenced Shadrack Matambo, Desmond Manodawafa and Alex Khoza, to an effective five years in jail each. Khumalo was reportedly given the longer prison sentence because he had two previous convictions for cycad poaching.

“In South Africa the greatest threat facing cycads is the poaching of plants from wild populations to supply both domestic and international markets,” said the EWT’s statement.

The statement said that current statistics showed that three Encephalartos cycad species were now extinct in the wild, 12 were critically endangered, four were endangered, nine were vulnerable and seven were near threatened. E. lehmannii falls into this last category.

The EWT had high praise for the police members who arrested the perpetrators, and for the National Prosecuting Authority for their efforts in the case.

“This is a truly outstanding conclusion to this case and will hopefully send a strong message to would-be perpetrators that it is not worth removing these endangered plants from the wild,” the EWT said.