Rhino poaching suspect killed

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IOL news nov 19  rhino Reuters File photo

Durban - A suspected rhino poacher has been killed in a shoot-out with wildlife rangers near the Mozambique border.

The unidentified man’s body was found in the Tembe Elephant Park on Thursday after a gunfight with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife rangers just before sunset on Tuesday.

Spokesman Musa Mntambo said the man was thought to have been part of an armed group of at least four who opened fire on two rangers on foot patrol in a densely forested section near Ezemvelo’s Muzi outpost.

“The Rangers took cover and returned fire. The poachers retreated and vanished through the thick forest, escaping across the border,” said Mntambo.

Police spokesman Captain Thulani Zwane confirmed the incident and said the rangers later handed over a .458 rifle with five rounds of ammunition and a silencer which was dropped by a poacher they thought might have been shot.

It was only on Thursday morning that the body was found.

Mntambo noted an increase in the number of rhino poached in this park, also known as the Ivory Route. Of the 60 rhino poached in KwaZulu-Natal so far this year, 10 were killed in the park.

He said the SANDF was deployed to patrol the park along the South Africa-Mozambique border last Friday.

This follows new focus on rhino poaching from the Southern African Development Community, according to a statement from the Ministry of Water and Environmental Affairs.

A total 587 rhino have been poached this year.

In June, Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa and the Minister of Tourism in Mozambique, Carvalho Muaria, agreed to a technical meeting between each country’s enforcement, environment and tourism officials.

“It is aimed at combating poaching and to distracting the illicit trafficking of rhino horn, elephant tusks and other wildlife and related products.”

The meeting, at a still to be determined date, was expected to lead to an agreement between the two countries to beef up environmental enforcement and conservation.

A total of 167 suspected rhino poachers have been arrested in South Africa and 37 in KZN this year.

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