JOHANNESBURG Aug 12 South African police have
shut down an illegal abalone-drying facility and seized six
tonnes of the gourmet mollusc with an estimated street value of
10 million rand ($1 million), one of their biggest busts against
international poaching rings.
Police spokeswoman Kholekile Galawe said two Chinese men and
a South African had been arrested during the raid on a remote
farm in the impoverished Eastern Cape province. They were
cooking and drying the delicacy, known locally as "perlemoen".
"Little did they know that the long arm of the law would
reach them in their hideout," Galawe said in a statement.
The three men will appear in court on Wednesday.
Destined for trendy restaurants in Hong Kong and China,
abalone - dubbed "white gold" after its pearly flesh - can fetch
up to 4,500 rand a kilogramme on the South African black market,
and nearly three times that in Asia, experts say.
Johannesburg police arrested four people in July at another
drying plant that yielded nearly five tonnes of illegally caught
abalone. Rampant poaching is driving the species to the brink of
extinction in the southern Africa region, experts say.
($1 = 10.6592 South African Rand)
(Reporting by Zandi Shabalala; Editing by Ed Cropley)