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Cape Town - A SANParks ranger was stabbed in the chest and bashed on the head while trying to apprehend a poacher near Sandy Bay beach on Thursday afternoon.
He is in a stable condition after surgery at Constantiaberg Hospital.
Ranger Ellister Sylvester, in his late twenties, was on a routine patrol with another ranger when they saw the suspect sitting on the rocks at 2pm. Sylvester took a photograph of the man before he was attacked with a rock and a knife.
This comes a week after head of the Table Mountain Safety Action Group Andre van Schalkwyk declared the area a no-go zone owing to a spate of violent attacks.
But Merle Collins, communications manager for Table Mountain National Park, said the area was extremely safe.
Patrols were stepped up, but rangers not carrying weapons made the patrols vulnerable, said Van Schalkwyk.
“I can’t understand how they can deploy unarmed rangers in the area who attempt to arrest poachers in a remote area, far away from backup,” he said. “This is a crime in itself.”
SANParks rangers carry a baton, pepper spray and handcuffs.
Collins said SANParks and the police launched a manhunt for the suspect. Sylvester’s patrol partner, Una Cloete, said they had come from Sandy Bay, and headed towards the beacon below Karbonkelberg, when they saw him. He had a bag full of mussels which they confiscated.
They told the man it was a restricted area and he was not allowed to remove anything from the ocean.
“I took the bag, ran back to the water and threw the mussels in while Sylvester took all his details.”
While Cloete was at the shoreline, her partner was stabbed. She called for help over the radio. “He was on the ground. There was blood everywhere.”
Cloete said there were small stab wounds on his upper body and a deeper cut under his arm. His head had also been hit. He remained conscious while they waited for help, but didn’t speak.
EMS spokesman Robert Daniels said the ranger was airlifted to hospital in a serious but stable condition about 45 minutes after he was stabbed.
Police spokesman Captain FC van Wyk confirmed the attack and a local officer said the suspect was well known to the Hout Bay police.
The search was called off on Thursday night since there was little chance of finding the man on the mountain in the dark.
Cadet News Agency