Ezemvelo rangers arrest suspected rhino poachers at iMfolozi

2009-11-16 00:00

EZEMVELO KZN Wildlife rangers arrested two suspected poachers after a late-night chase outside the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park last week, EKZNW spokesman Jeff Gaisford said.

Although the suspects have been charged only with the illegal possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition, Gaisford said the presence of a rhino in the area where the men were spotted, and the fact that they had an axe in their possession — along with a rifle and ammunition — indicated that they were after it.

The suspects have not yet appeared in court.

He said EKZNW has lost 19 rhino to poachers in its game reserves this year and two more were poached in private game reserves.

He said that acting on information, EKZNW rangers, consisting of staff from both parks as well as the iMfolozi anti-poaching unit, set up observation posts along the R618 road where it enters the park on the eastern side last Thursday night.

At about 10 pm rangers saw a vehicle stop just outside the park boundary and three men alighted and walked towards the point where the R618 enters the park. Suddenly, apparently uneasy, the trio moved back to their vehicle at which stage the rangers went after them.

”After a short but hectic chase involving the suspects’ vehicle and EKZNW vehicles, the  suspects’ vehicle was forced to a halt between the Kangala Store and Mawombe High School still on the R618 about four kilometres from the park boundary,” said Gaisford.

One of the suspects, who was seen carrying a pistol, jumped from the back of the moving Isuzu van and managed to escape, while the two men sitting in the cab were arrested.

They were found to be in possession of an unlicensed rifle of very old manufacture, .357 Magnum ammunition and an axe.

The two suspects were taken to the KwaMsane police station and charged with the illegal possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition.

“This is another most encouraging example of the dedication of the field staff in our protected areas,” said Sifiso Kheswa, EKZNW acting executive director of biodiversity conservation.

“I commend all staff involved in this incident, and reiterate our warning to those who would plunder our wildife resources that they do so at their peril,” he added.

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