Five people were arrested on Friday after they were caught with two live pangolins in the back of their van.
Acting on an anonymous tip-off, DISS agents and a team from the Department of Wildlife and Tourism apprehended the suspects near the University of Botswana campus in Gaborone.
The only mammal in the world covered in scales, Pangolins are a protected species, with scientists estimating that more than a million have been illegally trafficked in the last decade.
There is a huge demand for the ‘scaly anteaters’ in Asia, where their scales are used in traditional medicine and even eaten as an up-market delicacy.
The five suspects, who are all currently in police custody, are: 47-year-old Dilotlhoko Mogotsi of Phase One Gaborone, Shathani Mugwana, 48, of Tlokweng, Patricia Opelo Bayani, 34, from Francistown, Samuel Marambe, 17, and Ketso Mothibi, 35.
Upon being questioned after being busted, the quintet claimed that they brought the animals from one Coxoe Xikore in the Ghanzi region.
Confirming the arrest, Assistant Superintendent, Batlatsi Selapise of Central Police in Gaborone, revealed the case was brought to the police by Wildlife officers.
“So far, progress in the matter is that the suspects have been detained and are currently in police cells as investigations continue,” said Selapise.
FIVE FACTS ABOUT PANGOLINS YOU PROBABLY DIDN’T KNOW
1. A pangolin’s tongue can be longer than its body. Starting in their chest cavity, their tongues, which are extremely sticky, can be over 40cm long!
2. They do not have any teeth and are unable to chew.
3. A pangolin will roll itself into a tight ball when it feels threatened. Indeed, its name, which is taken from the Malay language, literally means ‘something that rolls up’.
4. Nobody knows exactly how long they can live, although it is widely assumed that the lifespan of a wild pangolin is roughly 20 years.
5. Pangolins are able to emit a noxious-smelling acid from glands near the anus, similar to that of a skunk. However, they are unable to spray the liquid.