Wildlife Watch

Crime Blotter: Zebra Meat, Leopard Skins, and More

A weekly roundup of wildlife crimes.

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A plains zebra and her foal in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park.


Every Sunday, Wildlife Watch notes some of the previous week’s wildlife crime busts and convictions around the world.

ZEBRA MEAT SALES: Wildlife officials in Monze, Zambia, arrested nine people, including a police officer, for allegedly possessing a live pangolin and 350 pounds of dried zebra meat without proper documentation, reports Lusakatimes.com. It’s believed that at the time of the arrest, the crew was seeking a customer to buy the zebra meat and the pangolin, a mammal prized for its meat and scales.

PANGOLIN SEIZURE: Police in Hung Yen, Vietnam, seized 81 pangolins from a truck, says Vietnamnet. The truck’s driver couldn’t show papers proving the legal origin of the animals. China and Vietnam are considered “the two most critical links in the transnational chain of illegal pangolin traders,” the story notes.

TURTLE SMUGGLING: Men from California and Louisiana have been charged with smuggling, transporting or acquiring wildlife for illegal uses, and conspiracy, according to The Associated Press. One of the men and an informant arranged for the sale of 220 turtles, of which 160 were various protected species. The other 60 were common snapping turtles that were chosen as cover because government inspectors know they’re dangerous.

LEOPARD SKIN SEIZURE: Forest officials in Nabarangpur, India, nabbed five members of a suspected poaching gang and seized six leopard skins, eight tiger teeth, two bear teeth, five bear nails, and a bear paw in their possession, reports New Indian Express. The Nabarangpur forest department had formed a special squad in March 2014 to catch the alleged poachers.

ILLEGAL LOGGERS: Police announced that a total of 39 people were arrested in January for allegedly poaching timber in central Taiwan, according to The China Post. A man suspected of leading the poaching ring is accused of recruiting runaway foreign laborers from the Chiayi and Yunlin areas to join the group, the publication reports.

REPTILE SMUGGLING: Authorities arrested a man suspected of attempting to smuggle 15 endangered reptiles out of Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta Airport, says Coconuts Jakarta. The reptiles included green tree pythons, an Argentine red tegu, and an Indian star tortoise.

IVORY SEIZURE: Forest department officials in the Mayurbhanj district in Odisha, India, busted four people accused of poaching elephants in Similipal National Park, according to Business Standard. They confiscated two pieces of the group’s ivory.

Fact of the Week: Plains zebras, which have a wide range in east and southern Africa, aren't listed as threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, an organization that classifies the conservation status of species. But wildlife activists think that overhunting of the animals for their meat and skins poses a serious danger to zebra populations.

This story was produced by National Geographic’s Special Investigations Unit, which focuses on wildlife crime and is made possible by grants from the BAND Foundation and the Woodtiger Fund. Read more stories from the SIU on Wildlife Watch. Send tips, feedback and story ideas to ngwildlife@ngs.org

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