SANParks and SAPS forensic investigators inspect a crime scene where a rhino was killed by poachers. A green pipe can be seen protruding from the dead rhino, indicating the entry of the bullet that killed the animal. Picture: Karen Sandison
Johannesburg - A suspected poacher was shot dead and a ranger injured following the arrest of 13 alleged poachers on Tuesday during three separate operations in the Kruger National Park.

The arrests were carried out in various parts of the park, which has borne the brunt of rhino poaching but is steadily increasing security and succeeding in apprehending the criminals.

“During follow-up operations in the Pretoriuskop section on Tuesday night, rangers made contact with a group of suspected rhino poachers, whereby one of the suspects was fatally wounded and his accomplice arrested,” said SA National Parks (SANParks) spokesperson William Mabasa.

“One of the SANParks field rangers was shot and injured in the foot. He was airlifted to hospital, where he is in a stable condition.

“His injury is not life threatening and he is receiving medical treatment and counselling,” he said.

Mabasa confirmed that a high-calibre rifle, ammunition and poaching equipment were confiscated at the scene.

Five suspected poachers were also arrested at the Paul Kruger Gate while trying to enter the park. Among the suspects was a police officer.

In a third set of arrests, six men believed to poachers were taken into custody at the park's Phalaborwa Gate.

“They include a SANParks environmental monitor, who is based at Letaba.

“The suspects were found in possession of a firearm, ammunition and poaching equipment and were apparently on their way into the park,” Mabasa said.

Chief ranger Nicholus Funda congratulated the rangers on the arrests.

“This is a befitting honour to our fallen colleagues, one of whom we laid to rest on Sunday, that we are carrying out our mission to jealously guard our natural assets,” he said.

“Technology coupled with our members' determination are ensuring that we successfully apprehend those intending to poach our rhinos,” Funda added.

He urged the park's neighbours to assist them by reporting any suspicious activities to law enforcement agencies.

“The rangers are doing their best inside, but that needs to be matched by all of us outside the park if we are to succeed in getting rid of this scourge,” he said.

Investigations are still continuing in all the cases.

Last week, 10 alleged poachers were arrested in the park, while a ranger was shot and killed by a police officer in an accidental shooting.

The officer was handling a firearm that had just been confiscated from an alleged poacher during an anti-poaching operation when the gun went off.

The Star