Environmental Management Inspectors, commonly known as the Green Scorpions, have been deployed by the Department of Environmental Affairs at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg in an effort to help combat wildlife crime.
“The Green Scorpions will work closely with other law enforcement agencies and departments at the airport, including the SA Police Service (SAPS), customs, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the Department of Health and Department of Home Affairs,” said Albi Modise, Environmental Affairs spokesperson, said in a statement on Monday.
He said the Green Scorpions and the police had already detected “non-compliance” with the Alien and Invasive Species Regulations related to reptiles and action would soon be taken.
“Shops trading in the International Departure Hall of OR Tambo have been checked to ensure that they comply with Nemba [National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act] regulations in order for people buying CITES [Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora] listed products to comply with permit requirements. A number of shops are currently in non-compliance,” Modise said. Notices would soon be issued.
“It is critical to understand that permits are required for the export and import of Cites- listed species, such as cosmetic products made from Aloe Ferox and crocodile leather products, such as watch straps, handbags and belts.”
A Green Scorpions team of 10 compliance officials have been deployed at the airport since 1 April to ensure compliance with current regulations regarding threatened or protected species, as well as the import of alien and invasive species.
“Officials will ensure that prohibited invasive species do not find their way into the country without being detected and are destroyed, where necessary. People who do not comply with the Alien and Invasive Species Regulations will either be prosecuted or issued with Compliance Notices and Directives,” he said.
Action, such as the issuing of notices and fines, would be taken against non-compliance. Prosecution would follow criminal investigations, where necessary, he said.
“Trade bans for commercial purposes relating to Cites-listed species have been put in place since 19 March 2015 for Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nigeria due to non-compliance with Cites plans and the Green Scorpions need to ensure that these bans are enforced,” Modise said.
The Green Scorpions will also be deployed at South Africa’s other designated ports of entry and exit over time, Modise said.
Report non-compliance with environmental laws by phoning the Environmental Crime Hotline at 080 020 5005