Five-year sentence for cheetah poacher

2014-04-12 00:00

A MAN who snared two young male cheetahs at uMkhuze Game Reserve last year, putting paid to a breeding project at the time, has been jailed for five years.

Umbombo magistrate Velengaziwa Mkhwanazi imposed the sentence on Bhekuyise Ndlovu, who admitted that he set the wire snares that killed the two cheetahs in the reserve on June 19 last year.

Ndlovu’s accomplice, Mkhumbuzeni Mathenjwa, who helped Ndlovu to retrieve the carcasses and carry them to his homestead, was fined R4 000 or 12 months’ imprisonment.

According to evidence led at the trial, rangers were alerted about the poaching of the cheetahs when blips on their monitoring collars showed the animals had left the reserve.

Rangers followed the blips to Ndlovu’s homestead, where people were trying to burn the collars. The carcasses had already been skinned.

The cheetahs’ pelts were recovered from the homestead of a local inkosi, who was initially charged but acquitted after the court ruled that there was no evidence that he was found in possession of the pelts.

The uMkhuze Game Reserve is part of iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a World Heritage Site in northern KZN.

iSimangaliso said yesterday it was thanks to its vigilant park rangers that the poachers were brought to justice.

Cheetahs are a specially protected species in terms of the National Environmental Biodiversity Act.

State advocate Waldo Smit, who headed the prosecution, said in aggravation of sentence cheetahs are highly endangered and only 900 remain in the wild in South Africa.

The two poached cheetahs were introduced into uMkhuze by iSimangaliso and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife as part of a project aimed at re-establishing the cheetah population there.

iSimangaliso CEO Andrew Zaloumis said the conviction sends out a strong message not to poach in protected areas. “Anti-poaching strategies are continually interrogated and improved in iSimangaliso … There are many dedicated staff in iSimangaliso who have devoted their lives to conservation and are working round the clock with conservation-minded communities to beat the scourge of poaching,” he said.

iSimangaliso’s conservation vision is to fully restore eco-systems and re-establish migratory patterns of animal populations that historically occurred in the area.

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