Times live (South Africa)

03 May 2019

Members of a forensics team perform an autopsy on a rhino killed for its horn in the Kruger National Park.

Members of a forensics team perform an autopsy on a rhino killed for its horn in the Kruger National Park. 
Image: Alaister Russell

The fight against poaching in the Kruger National Park has resulted in a lengthy jail term for one gunman, but the fight to counter gangs continues for police and rangers.

Law-enforcement officers are hunting for a suspect who escaped during a shootout, during which his accomplice was killed.

The provincial commissioner of police in Mpumalanga, Lieutenant-General Mondli Zuma, this week hailed anti-poaching teams and the courts for ensuring that a 33-year-old man received an effective 22-year prison term for poaching activities in the Kruger.

Musa Khoza, from Manyeveni in Kabokweni, near White River, was sentenced by the Skukuza Magistrate’s Court on April 30. He had been arrested in the park in September 2016 on a number of charges, including entering a national park without permission or authority (trespass), carrying out a restricted activity involving threatened or protected species without a permit, possession of a firearm and ammunition without a licence, possession of a dangerous weapon and receiving stolen property knowing it to be stolen.

Meanwhile, Colonel Mtsholi Bhembe said police at Skukuza are looking for a man who escaped “after an altercation through the barrel of a gun” in the park on April 26.

“It all spiralled when police received information about two suspects who were planning to enter the park with intent to poach. A joint operational team comprising police and rangers managed to track down the duo,” said Bhembe.

“The suspects started shooting at the law-enforcement team and they (team) retaliated, causing a shootout which resulted in one of the suspects being fatally wounded. A hunting rifle with ammunition and two carry bags were seized.

“The other suspect managed to escape into the bushes and is still at large.”

Anyone with information that will assist in tracking down the suspect or establish his identity is requested to contact Warrant Officer Chris Leroy on 082 448 9613 or call the SAPS Crime Stop number on 08600 10111.

General Zuma said the police, Kruger National Park rangers and other law-enforcement agencies will not sit idle while the fauna and flora of SA is being depleted.

“It is sad that whilst some criminals are being sentenced/arrested, some are still coming into the park looking to make a quick buck at the expense of the citizens of the province and country,” said the general.