KZN police pounce on rhino poachers

Following an unprecedented onslaught by poachers against KwaZulu-Natal’s besieged rhino population during May, KZN police have been able to make a number of arrests in an effort to dam this scourge.

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A total of eight suspected poachers were arrested, and one shot and killed, in two incidents alone this month. KZN SAPS reported that in the one incident a joint operation by the Durban Organised Crime Unit, the Special Task Force and the private Nyathi Anti-Poaching Unit, three alleged rhino poachers were arrested at the exclusive Phinda Game Reserve in northern Zululand.

A fourth suspect was killed during a shoot-out between the suspects and police, while one of the others was wounded and hospitalised. KZN SAPS spokesperson, Captain Thulani Zwane, said that police confiscated a .458 calibre pistol, a hunting rifle fitted with a silencer, ammunition and an axe. “They were charged with possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition, attempted murder, attempting to hunt rhinos, and trespassing,” said Zwane.

In the second incident five suspected rhino poachers were arrested in the Hluhluwe area during a joint operation by the Richards Bay Organised Crime Unit, the KwaMsane Tactical Response Team, the Mtubatuba Visible Policing Unit and provincial conservation organisation, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. During the operation, authorities recovered two .308 rifles and 93 rounds of .308 and R1 ammunition. The suspects are aged between 20 and 64 years old.

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“The operation was conducted after members [of the joint operation] received information about the whereabouts of wanted suspects in rhino poaching, that were allegedly involved in the killing of at least five rhinos in the Hluhluwe area and surrounds this month alone,” Zwane said.

By 21 May Ezemvelo had discovered 11 rhino poached during the month. No less than eight of these were in iSimangaliso Wetland Park, two in uMsuluzi Community Conservation Area near Colenso, and one in Weenen Game Reserve. Dr Bandile Mkhize, Ezemvelo CEO, said of the discovered poached rhinos, “We will not drop our heads. However heart sore I feel today, we will fight with everything we’ve got to track down these criminals. That I can assure you.” reported that as at 31 May 2013, no less than 367 rhino had been poached countrywide since the beginning of the year.