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Three would-be poachers try to outsmart authorities but are arrested in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park

Messrs Sizwe Tivane and Samkele Sithole poachers arrested in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park. They left behind a bag and a few of their items on the ground. Picture: Supplied

Messrs Sizwe Tivane and Samkele Sithole poachers arrested in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park. They left behind a bag and a few of their items on the ground. Picture: Supplied

Published Jun 12, 2022

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Durban - Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife has reported that three would-be poachers were arrested on different days inside the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP) last week.

It said that the arrests brought the number of poachers arrested inside HiP in 2022 to five.

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In both incidents, the suspects were arrested before they could kill a rhino.

Ezemvelo spokesperson Musa Mntambo said that in the latest incident on Wednesday, June 8, 2022, two poachers were arrested with the assistance of the K9 Unit. The two had recently travelled from Mpumalanga province and were staying in a house that is a stone’s throw away from HiP.

The proximity of the house to the park provided the two with an advantage point to observe everything that was going on inside the park. They were not only able to monitor the field rangers on foot patrol but were also able to scan the movement of rhinos inside the park, Mntambo said.

He said that Ezemvelo field rangers on the early morning foot patrol noticed footprints and decided to call the Ezemvelo K9 Unit. The K9 Unit began to follow the tracks which led them near where the suspects were hiding.

“Unfortunately, the suspects heard the noises of the rangers approaching and decided to run in different directions. They left behind a bag and a few of their items on the ground. They however managed to run with their .375 rifle,” Mntambo said.

He said a chopper and additional assistance from Wildlife College’s K9 Unit were called upon.

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“The two suspects Messrs Sizwe Tivane and Samkele Sithole, both from Mpumalanga province were arrested in the afternoon. They were found with a .375 rifle,” Mntambo said.

He said they appeared in court on Friday, June 10, 2022, and their case was postponed to Monday, June 13, 2022.

Mntambo said that in another incident, Vusi Mdluli from the Mfekayi area in Mtubatuba was arrested on Monday, June 6, 2022.

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“Mdluli was picked up by the Ezemvelo camera and the field rangers, assisted by a K9 Unit, were deployed to track him. When he saw a chopper he decided to run and took off his t-shirt in an attempt to blend with the bush. Unfortunately, the dogs had already seen him and were on top of him before he could implement his escape plan,” Mntambo said.

He said that it was common for poachers to try to hide from the Ezemvelo chopper by removing their clothes.

Mdluli appeared in the Hlabisa Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.

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Ezemvelo acting chief executive Ntsikelelo Dlulane said: “Our improved and random deployment of field rangers, as well as the presence of SAPS inside HiP have made it difficult for would-be poachers to fully understand our movements. The K9 Unit is also proving to be a welcome addition to our fight against rhino poachers. I trust that these recent arrests will provide us with enough information to make more arrests.”

In addition, Mntambo said HiP has been under siege since the beginning of 2022. The park at times has to deal with three to five different groups of poachers who enter the park from different directions at more or less the same time.

He said that to date, 123 rhinos have been poached in KwaZulu-Natal in both public and private game reserves.

Last month when the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Barbara Creecy delivered her budget speech to the National Council of Provinces, she said that poaching pressure had shifted across the country and KZN had become a key target area.

She said that as a result, departmental resources were deployed to actively support Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the SAPS. This support includes assistance to law enforcement officials and joint operations managers as well as the nerve centre in HiP.

“As the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park is part of the Zululand Integrated Wildlife Zone, the national department has also been assisting the park to link up with potential donors that could support urgent priority interventions, aligned to Ezemvelo’s Rhino Crime Combating Intervention Strategy. With the additional resources from the SAPS that have now been deployed to the area, and the ongoing dedicated work of the Ezemvelo rangers, the department is expecting increased arrests and we will continue to support this integrated effort over the next few months,” Creecy said.

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