JOHANNESBURG A joint operation of law enforcement agencies discovered more than a tonne of marijuana (mbanje) with a street value of R36 million as well as a 50-year-old tortoise in a storage facility south of Johannesburg, police said.
National police spokesperson Dennis Adriao said the South African Police Service, working with the Hawks and Crime Intelligence, discovered crates of mbanje destined for export in the storage facility on Saturday.
The tortoise was being kept without food and water between the crates, he said.
The animal has been handed to the wildlife unit from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, he said.
The tortoise is a female leopard tortoise probably from somewhere on the east coast of Africa, Adriao said.
She was showing signs of distress which is inevitable considering what she has been through, but she has been fed and watered and will be X-rayed by a vet on Monday (today), he said. Adriao said creatures like tortoises were often smuggled to Asian countries where they were used in food preparations.
The mbanje, a cannabis preparation, was hidden in pet food bags, tobacco and tomato sauce packaging.
Sniffer dogs were brought in to search the facility and they confirmed the presence of the drugs and the forensic unit was also involved.
Criminals think that by hiding drugs in pet food packaging we will pass over it thinking the sniffer dogs have been distracted by the smell. Our dogs are not that stupid, Adriao said.
Police suspect the drugs and the tortoise were being smuggled by an international syndicate.