Namibia: Desert Reptile Smuggling Syndicate Alert
CHAMELEONS, snakes, geckos and lizards from the dunebelt between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay are allegedly "disappearing", and environmental authorities and tourist operators are suspecting that this could be due to the malicious operations of a "reptile smuggling syndicate".
For some time now operators in the area, with the assistance of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), have noticed a decrease in certain reptiles, and have been alerted that a smuggling syndicate, who illegally exports them to Europe and sells them for thousands of dollars apiece, may be involved.
A German citizen who frequents Namibia has already been questioned by authorities recently, but it turned out that, according to him, he was only a nature lover and enjoyed walking in the dunes and photographing the creatures.
The Namibian learned from reliable sources that the man's details and photograph were taken and submitted to Interpol, but no previous criminal activity could be linked to him.
He did however inform the authorities that on several occasions, especially in the early morning hours, he would allegedly see a few men in the dunes with "bags filled with creatures", which they then allegedly smuggle to European collectors.
Rod Braby, Coordinator of the Namibian Coast Conservation and Management Project (Nacoma) confirmed the reports, but added that "no real leads" could be identified at this time.
Cletius Maketu, Chief Warden for MET in Erongo, was not available for comment.