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Nelspruit, Mpumalanga - Two men were jailed for 29 years each for rhino poaching by the Nelspruit Magistrate's Court on Friday.
Magistrate Catherine Hugo said the sentences should be a deterrent to other would-be rhino poachers.
Gearson Cosa, 35, and Ali Nkuna, 25, were sentenced for trespassing, being in possession of hunting rifles and ammunition, and poaching a rhino and its calf.
Cosa received an additional three months for being in the country illegally. They were arrested last June for rhino poaching in the Kruger National Park. The court ruled the crime was a well-planned exercise with the aim to hunt rhinos for their horns.
Aggrey Machubeni, for the defence, argued Cosa was unemployed at the time, and had a family of five to feed. It was also his first offence and the court should consider his youth in sentencing him.
Machubeni said Nkuna was a temporary builder who earned between R2000 and R3000 a month. He asked the court to strike a balance, arguing that imprisonment would turn Cosa and Nkuna into hardened criminals.
Prosecutor Isabet Erwee said poverty was not an excuse for committing a crime.
“If that was the main drive, then surely one would have expected the accused to take pieces of meat with them to their wives and children.
“They did not do that, so one can only assume their actions were based on greed and were exceptionally cruel.”
Frik Rossouw, of the Kruger National Park, testified the poachers could have earned up to R85 000/kg for the rhino horn on the black market, and that the 6.1kg horn they poached was worth an estimated R400 000.
He voiced concern about the high number of rhino poaching incidents.
There had been nine reported cases of rhino poaching in the Nwanetsi part of the park this month alone, Rossouw said. - Sapa