Nelspruit - A poacher has been sentenced to 77 years in jail by the Nelspruit Magistrate's Court for hunting three rhino in the Kruger National Park in 2011, the SA National Parks said on Wednesday.
“This is a huge triumph for the rhino and we warmly welcome this reward as it will provide the much-needed boost to the anti-poaching teams who endure harsh conditions for the protection of our parks,” SANParks CEO Abe Sibiya said in a statement.
The park had lost 370 animals to poaching since January, Sibiya said.
Mandla Chauke was arrested in 2011. Rangers found Chauke and two others in the south end of the park after hearing gun shots, the National Prosecuting Authority said on Wednesday.
The rangers found the three men had shot a rhino bull, a cow, and a calf.
“The cow and the calf were badly wounded but still alive, and lying on the ground suffocating in the pool of their own blood... an adult bull, was fatally wounded,” spokesman Nathi Mncube said in a statement.
A shoot-out ensued between the men and the rangers. Chauke and one other man were wounded. The third man escaped and was still at large. The wounded man died in hospital.
Chauke was sentenced to 15 years for the murder of his accomplice, eight years for theft of horns, 15 years for illegal possession of a firearm, seven years for illegal possession of ammunition, two years for trespassing, and 10 years each for illegally hunting each rhino.
He would serve a sentence of in effect 47 years, Mncube said.
“We hope that this sentence will serve as deterrence to potential offenders.”