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Johannesburg - The killing of eight rhinos in the North West at the weekend was barbaric, the Environmental Affairs Department said on Tuesday.
“We would like to reiterate the government's commitment to the fight against this ongoing plundering of our natural resources,” spokesperson Albi Modise said in a statement.
He called on members of the public to help catch poachers.
“We call on all officials employed by the various conservation authorities and provincial departments of environment to put the interests of the country above any personal goals by reporting any potential corrupt activities or any officials suspected of involvement in poaching.”
Three men were arrested in Brits, North West, on Tuesday for the rhino poaching, the Hawks said.
Acting on a tip-off, the Hawks found them in their homes in Lethabo township. One of them was a ranger, said Captain Paul Ramaloko.
“We are linking them with the poaching of eight rhinos in Klipkopspruit farm over the weekend,” he said.
Seven rhinos were found dead at the weekend and another one was found on Monday. No horns were found in the men's residences.
“We hope they will lead us to their leaders, because we didn't find any horn in their homes,” Ramaloko said.
He said the men, aged between 47 and 59, would appear in the Brits Magistrate's Court on Thursday on charges of rhino poaching.
North West Premier Thandi Modise welcomed the arrests.
“The swift arrest is encouraging and attests that with support of communities, the war against crime and the scourge of rhino poaching is winnable,” she said.
She said it was disappointing that a ranger was among those arrested.
“It is disappointing and shameful and calls for the police to widen their net and not leave any stone unturned,” she said.
A total of 230 people have been arrested for poaching this year. Last week, a Thai man was jailed for 40 years after being found guilty on 59 charges related to poaching.
The environmental department said around 570 rhino had been killed so far in 2012, with the Kruger National Park the most affected. The park had lost 347 rhino this year alone. - Sapa