A man caught in possession of an endangered pangolin skin worth $5,000 sh0cked a Zimbabwe court when he claimed he wanted to sell it to buy his girlfriǝnd a birthday present.

Thandazani Baloyi, 34, from Entumbane suburb, pleaded guilty to possessing the protected animal trophy in court.

However, in mitigation, Baloyi told the judge he wanted to sell the pangolin skin to buy food since he was unemployed, adding that part of the money was meant to buy his girlfriǝnd a birthday gift. He was remanded out of custody to 29 May for sentencing.

Police received a tip-off that Baloyi was selling a pangolin skin near Renkini old bus terminus. When detectives arrived, they found Baloyi carrying a sack filled with mopani worms but hidden underneath was the protected pangolin skin.

When asked to produce a licence for the skin, Baloyi could not. The skin was confirmed to be that of a pangolin by an ecologist.

Zimbabwe has strict laws against poaching pangolins, with offenders facing up to 9 years in jail. However, Baloyi’s flimsy excuse sh0cked the court, calling into question whether stricter penalties are needed to deter the illegal wildlife trade.

The case highlights the ongoing battle to stop poaching of endangered species for financial gain, even for something as trivial as a girlfriǝnd’s birthday gift.