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Last Updated: Monday, 29 October 2007, 13:21 GMT
S Africa's mini cattle rustlers
Alice Lander
BBC News, Durban

Cattle thieves in South Africa
Cattle rustlers are using tiny vehicles to evade the police
Cattle rustlers in South Africa's eastern KwaZulu-Natal province have been trying to outwit police by transporting the animals in small cars.

Police in Zululand say they seized two cows and two goats found squashed into the back of a tiny Fiat Uno.

The National Anti-Stock Theft Forum said more than 62,000 cows were stolen in the area last year.

The authorities say the use of ever-smaller vehicles came after police stepped up surveillance of larger vans.

Police chased one overloaded Fiat Uno into the night, after receiving a tip-off at around 0300.

The driver abandoned the car after he realised he was being followed and ran off into the bushes.

All the seats except the driver's had been taken out and the cows and goats loaded in their place.

The vehicle and its unusual passengers were taken to Emanguzi police station and then to the centre where they keep stolen animals in Hluhluwe.

"Police have been keeping watch on vans and trucks travelling at night," local police spokesman, Capt Jabulani Mdletshe explained.

"Now they are using small cars to avoid detection."

The authorities say in another instance the rustlers managed to cram two cows and seven goats into a Toyota Tazz before being pulled over.

Some cattle are stolen by local villagers to restock their kraals after the loss of their own cattle to raiders.

But most are stolen by syndicates who sell them for their meat to butcheries in Mpumalanga, the Eastern Cape, Swaziland, Mozambique and Lesotho.

"Syndicates will use every mode of transport available to them," said the head of KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union's security desk, Koos Maree.

The KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union's security desk said at least 15,000 cows, 7,000 sheep and 900 goats had been stolen in KwaZulu-Natal so far this year.

Police said they hoped these animals would be given a trauma debriefing - but did not elaborate on what that would entail.

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