Mbombela - Two Mozambicans who killed and dehorned a white rhino were each handed 16-year sentences by the Nelspruit Regional Court on Tuesday.
Joseph Ephraim Bila and Ndombama Salvatore Nkuna were sentenced to 10 years for killing the rhino, four years for trespassing and carrying out a restricted activity in a restricted area, and six years for illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.
The 10- and four-year sentences would run concurrently.
The pair were arrested by rangers from the Mjokwane Section of the Kruger National Park on April 27 last year.
They pleaded guilty to the charges.
A third suspect who was alleged to be the mastermind, Tinos “Lucky” Mhlongo from Mkhuhlu outside Hazyview, skipped bail last year.
Bila told the court he had a wife and two children to support and made a living from selling charcoal.
Both he and Nkuna claimed to have been lured into poaching by Mhlongo.
“I ask for sympathy and a lighter sentence to go back and support my family,” Bila said.
Nkuna, who has two wives and seven children, said his job was to transport cattle to butcheries in his home country.
“I really regret what I have done. I ask for mercy and forgiveness. I did not know where the horns would be sold to and for how much,” he said.
State prosecutor Isbet Erwee said over 344 rhinos had been killed this year with 146 poaching cases reported in the Mjokwane section alone.