15 April 2014
Last week was one of the busiest on record for anti-poaching units in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, with three heavily armed groups of suspected rhino poachers being detected and eight arrests being made.
The eight arrests included those of two South African National Parks (SANParks) employees. According to spokesperson Reynold Thakhuli, the two SANParks men appeared on Wednesday in the White River Magistrate’s Court, where their case was remanded to 16 April for a formal bail application.
Thakhuli said most of last week’s incidents took place in the southern part of the park, in areas such as Crocodile Bridge, Kingfisherspruit, Tshokwane and Stolsnek.
On Thursday, he said, rangers from Crocodile Bridge arrested two suspected poachers, believed to be Zimbabwean nationals, as they were leaving the park, recovering a G3 military type rifle along with a silencer and ammunition.
On Friday, rangers from the Kingfisherspruit area apprehended another two suspected poachers, arresting one while recovering a .458 rifle, silencer, ammunition and poaching equipment. The second suspect managed to escape arrest.
Tshokwane rangers apprehended a further two suspects on Saturday, making one arrest and recovering a .375 hunting rifle, ammunition and poaching equipment. The second suspect managed to escape back to Mozambique.
And on Sunday, in Stolsnek, rangers apprehended a group of five suspected poachers, arresting two of them with the help of SANParks Airwing and canine units. Thakhuli said the hunt for the remaining three suspects, who managed to escape, was still on.
“This is a clear indication that resilience and patience pays off, and we are grateful that no lives were lost during an encounter with these heavily armed suspected poachers.”
He said the anti-poaching units are ready for the coming long weekend, with many deployments routes, particularly in poaching hot-spots, being plotted out.
“We will be ready and waiting for them, and we would like to request the support and cooperation of all members of society in identifying and reporting suspicious behavior that could lead to the apprehension and conviction of these criminals.”
The public can report incidents of poaching and give tip-offs to the anonymous tip-off lines 0800 205 005, 08600 10111 or Crime Line on 32211.