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Pretoria - The South African National Parks (SANParks) on Monday welcomed the sentencing of a rhino poacher to a total of 33 years in prison, by the Skukuza Regional Court in the Kruger National Park.

"Patrick Nkuna was arrested in 2015 in the Kruger National Park's (KNP) Pretoriuskop section during an extended ground and air follow-up anti-poaching operation. Shortly before the arrest of Nkuna and his accomplices, he attempted to shoot at a SANParks helicopter involved in the follow-up operation," said SanParks spokesperson Isaac Phaahla.

Managing Executive of the KNP, Glenn Phillips commended the court for the stiff jail term, saying it sends a clear message to would-be poachers.

“This is a huge victory and deterrence factor in the ongoing anti-poaching campaign. We warmly welcome this ruling as it will provide the much-needed boost to the anti-poaching teams who endure harsh conditions for the protection of our parks," said Phillips.

Nkuna was charged with 12 counts, including four counts of attempted murder, trespassing in a national park, and possession of an illegal firearm.

“Our wish is to see a significant increase in such convictions and for the law enforcement authorities in affected countries to cooperate and work with us to end this scourge,” said Phillips.   

African News Agency (ANA)