Poacher unit shoots suspect

2012-11-30 00:00

A SUSPECTED rhino poacher was shot and injured while another managed to escape unharmed during a confrontation with anti-poachers at the Isimangaliso Wetlands Park late last night.

Park’s media officer Siyabonga Mhlon­go said the park had received information that poachers were again targeting its rhino.

A combined operation between iSimangaliso’s contracted Nyathi Anti-Poaching and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife set up an interception point in the Ozabeni section of the Park where two rhino were poached earlier this year.

Mhlongo said that two armed suspects walked into the interception point at 11.45 pm and were instructed to drop their rifles.

“A suspect took his rifle off his shoulder and prepared to fire at the law enforcement staff. A ranger fired at him and he was wounded in the arm, dropping his rifle. He was then secured … the other suspect fled into the night.”

“Upon inspection, the rifle was identified as a heavy calibre .458 Mag hunting rifle, with a live round loaded in the chamber. This calibre rifle is not usually used for poaching just any animal other than rhino and elephant,” she said in a statement.

Mhlongo said iSimangaliso and crime fighting partners are hitting back at poachers.

“This year alone, iSimangaliso has lost eight rhino to poaching. Two of these were in the Ozabeni section, two on the Eastern Shores, and three on the Western Shores and one in Mkhuze.”

This was a second arrest of a suspected rhino poacher at the park in less than a month.

On November 5, a suspect was arrested in the Mkhuze section following a sting operation by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and Durban Organised Crime Unit.

The suspects were intercepted before a rhino was shot, one was arrested while the others fled.

A .375 rifle with a silencer was recovered. The arrested suspect has also been implicated in several other rhino poaching incidents including one at Charters Creek in 2008/9 and there are unconfirmed links to others.

Ezemvelo CEO Dr Bandile Mkhize said they were pleased with the arrest as it showed they were making progress. He attributed the progress to the strong anti-poaching networks they have established.

“Even if it is one person we arrest, that is a big motivation.”

Attempts to get comment from the police yesterday were unsuccessful.

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