A snake collector who has worked in KwaZulu-Natal was jailed for five years with his Kenyan accomplice yesterday for attempting to smuggle rare snakes from Kenya.
Briton Simon David Harris (43) and Richard Wangwe (28) were on Monday found with six live horned vipers at a hotel in the Kenyan town of Naivasha.
Acting on a tip-off, police officers arrested the two at the Fish Camp hotel at Kongoni.
They were charged with being in possession of six live Kenya horned viper snakes without a certificate of ownership, failing to make a report of obtaining possession of government trophy and dealing in government trophy.
They pleaded guilty and magistrate Seline Muchingi sentenced them to five years — made up of three years on the first count and one year each for the second and third counts — in Naivasha jail, some 100 kilometres north of the capital Nairobi.
The Standard reported that Harris, who looked visibly shaken at the unexpected sentence, had pleaded with the magistrate to give him the option of paying a fine.
He told the court he was on holiday and that he had no intention of exporting the vipers.
Anti-wildlife trafficking groups regularly accuse Kenyan courts of being lenient towards offenders, notably on those caught smuggling large quantities of ivory who, until very recently, often escaped with relatively paltry fines of a few hundred dollars.
A spokesperson for the Kenya Wildlife Service, Paul Udoto, said Harris lived in Germany and was planning to export the snakes to Germany and South Africa. In 1996, Harris, who then lived in Johannesburg, was arrested at Orlando International Airport in Florida, carrying a suitcase with 61 Madagascan tree snakes and four spider tortoises.