Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife anti-poaching unit staff (APU's) shot and killed two poachers last weekend at KZN's premier game reserve Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP). This was one of three poaching incursions confronted over the past four days.
The poachers had shot and killed a White Rhino at Manzimnyama (near Memorial Gate) but Ezemvelo's field staff had heard the shots and confronted them. The one poacher was killed instantly while the second was wounded and later died.
An axe, a .375 rifle and two white rhino horns were found in their possession.
Cedric Coetzee, Ezemvelo's Rhino Security Manager, said while the level of poaching was “undoubtedly” escalating with three rhino carcasses having been found over the past week (Tembe Elephant Park, a private game ranch and HiP), Ezemvelo's new joint operations with the SAPS was proving “highly effective”.
“I have absolutely no doubt that since the amounts being paid to these poachers has increased, so the number of incursions has escalated. But in collaboration with the SAPS, we are meeting them head on. We will not be standing back; not for one moment. Our intelligence is improving all the time.”
Based on this improved intelligence, Ezemvelo set up a number of ambushes at Ozabeni (iSimangaliso Wetland Park) last Friday where Field Rangers confronted a poaching suspect. While the poacher escaped, Ezemvelo was able to seize a .375 bolt action rifle along with ammunition and a silencer.
A similar incident occurred at Tembe Elephant Park on Sunday where two poachers were intercepted by the SAPS. They, too, escaped but a .375 rifle with silencer was recovered.
Over the past month the Joint Operations Command has undertaken eleven further Cordon and Search operations. These resulted in three arrests, the recovery of two firearms, large amounts of ammunition and the seizure of huge amounts of wildlife contraband (animal skins, horns and the like).
“What's important is the accuracy of our intelligence. We are increasingly identifying the syndicates associated with rhino poaching. We are on to them - and they should know that,” said Coetzee.
The total number of rhino poached in KZN this year has risen to 33 (29 White Rhino and four Black). 28 arrests have been made and 20 firearms have been recovered.
* Richard Compton is based in Kloof, KwaZulu-Natal