Police spokesperson, Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana, says three people aged between 28 and 30 were taken in for questioning after detectives from the Organised Crime Investigations Unit followed up on information about a lion cub that was transported from Thabazimbi in Limpopo to the Western Cape.
“Various addresses were searched in the Athlone area and the lion cub was found in Athlone,” Rwexana says.
“A case docket of possession of an endangered species was registered by the Stock Theft Unit and the lion cub was taken to a place of safety.
“The estimated street value of the lion cub is R50 000.”
While Rwexana remained tight-lipped about the exact location the cub was found, crime-fighters say cops were seen skutting houses in Bokmakierie and Hazendal before finding the leeutjie in Lawrence Road, Athlone.
A patroller, who asked not to be named, says residents reported a commotion in the street and cops responded lightning fast.
“Residents in Lawrence Road reported a commotion with police in the vicinity of Pliny Street. We got there in about five minutes but it was all quiet already, the cops were in and out.”
Meanwhile, it has been alleged that the lion belonged to underworld kingpin Nafiz Modack, but he denied it.
This after he posted a photo on Facebook of himself holding a cub on Saturday, 17 August.
“I do not own a lion. And I hope the cub they got is OK and safely looked after,” he said.
Asked about the pictures, he said it was taken at lion farms he had visited with his family: “There’s a few that’s on the farm and other cubs and they have permits.”
Athlone Community Police Forum chairperson, Aziza Kannenmeyer, says the discovery of the lion cub in the suburbs has sent tongues wagging.
“This is something new for Athlone. Our society is focused on drugs and guns, but there are deeper things that are happening on a mass scale when it comes to organised crime,” she says.
“People smokkel animals, people and all sorts of things. This is very under wraps, but the public deserves to know what happened here.”
Two videos have since gone viral on social media.
In the first video the cub can be seen trying to find its way around, what appears to be a garage where three cars are parked.
As the cub maneuvers its way around the cars, a man's voice is heard saying "Simba, where you? Come."
In a second video a man replicates a popular scene from The Lion King movie and lifts the cub in the air and says "I give to you, Simba... the King of the Jungle", while the The Lion King theme song, Circle of Life plays in the background.
The cub can be heard grunting over the loud music and sounds of laughter.