Durban - Three suspected rhino poachers were arrested following a tip-off from a tourist visiting the Kruger National Park. The men aged between 23 and 49 allegedly shot and killed four rhinos before they were nabbed.
They are due to appear in the Bushbuckridge Magistrates' Court on Monday on charges of possession of an unlicensed firearm with ammunition, as well as charges related to poaching and illegally entering the park. Police said more charges are expected to be added at a later stage.
“Reports indicate that on the said day a group of armed intruders sneaked inside the park and later gunshots were heard by a tourist who had visited the park on that day,” said Brigadier Selvy Mohlala.
He said information was escalated to the field rangers and a helicopter was immediately dispatched to the scene where the sound was heard. As the chopper arrived, three men were spotted and captured in possession of a hunting rifle, a silencer, three knives, four mobile phones as well as three bags.
“Police at Skukuza were notified about the incident and three suspects were arrested. Further than that, a total of three rhino horns were found next to the spot where the suspects were found. There were also four carcasses of rhinoceros that were discovered during the incident, however the horn on the fourth animal had not yet been removed when the suspects were caught,” Mohlala explained.
Through preliminary investigation it was discovered that the alleged poachers failed to remove the horn as the knife they were reportedly using was broken.
Police said it was further discovered that the three male suspects are from Mozambique and were in South Africa illegally hence a charge of contravention of the Immigration Act of South Africa.
Mpumalanga SAPS Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant General Semakaleng Daphney Manamela, has praised field rangers for the excellent work done in apprehending the alleged poachers.
“We are adamant that the arrest will serve as a lesson to others that no one can just go to the park and hunt as they wish without any consequences. We hope that the suspects will be dealt with by the court,” Manamela said.
Last month, three suspected poachers were arrested by rangers at Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife. According to reports, the trio were apprehended before they could kill a rhino inside the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park
According to reports, at least 75 rhinos have been poached in KwaZulu-Natal alone since the start of 2022.