(South Africa)

South African National Parks today announced the arrest of four rhino poachers in the Kruger National Park (KNP) over the weekend.

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Park rangers, assisted by the K9 unit and the aviators of the airwing, made the arrests at the Stolznek section of the Park.

In the first incident on Friday, rangers followed tracks and surprised suspected poachers sitting under a tree. They tried to flee, but the rangers successfully apprehended them. A high-calibre hunting rifle, ammunition and poaching equipment were seized at the scene. The suspects will appear in court in due course.

The second incident took place on Saturday when rangers followed up after hearing gunshots and stumbled upon two suspected poachers. The one suspect, who had a rifle, was fatally wounded while the second managed to evade arrest. A backpack with two rhino horns was recovered next to the body of the suspect. A high-calibre rifle and poaching equipment were also seized. A carcass of a male black rhino was found nearby, indicating that the horns were hacked from this particular animal.

Meanwhile the Skukuza Regional Court sentenced Simon Lubisi to an effective 19 years in custody for killing and dehorning a rhino. Lubisi was arrested in the Crocodile Bridge section together with three co-accused while busy dehorning a rhino. One suspect was fatally wounded when he shot at the rangers and the three accused were apprehended and granted bail upon their appearance before a magistrate. They all absconded but fortunately Lubisi was arrested again in the Park and stood trial, resulting in the conviction and sentencing on Thursday.

KNP managing executive Gareth Coleman congratulated the anti-poaching teams on their weekend success and the prosecuting team on the conviction and sentencing of Lubisi.

“We are saddened to have lost a rhino over the weekend, but are encouraged by the brave actions of our multidisciplinary anti-poaching teams who successfully took two rifles out of the system and apprehended suspects who are now in custody. We also appreciate the heavy sentences that the Skukuza regional court have been handing down recently. It motivates all those who work tirelessly to arrest the suspects found in the park. The kingpins are still out there and we hope they get arrested soon to face the full might of the law,” said Coleman.

For the reporting period between July and September, there has been an increase of 29,41% in the number of poachers arrested. A total of 22 were arrested while 17 were arrested during the same period in 2020. There has been an increase of 85,71% in the number of poacher firearms recovered. Thirteen firearms were confiscated, compared to the seven confiscated during the same period in 2020.

“The KNP management is confident that with all the security updates that have been put into commission, we will be able to get on top of the situation,” Coleman said.