Poachers killed in shootout

2014-11-06 00:00

RANGERS of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife have again taken the fight to alleged rhino poachers, this time killing two suspects in the Mkuze Game Reserve near Hlonhlela.

Four rangers on foot patrol came under fire from two suspicious men at about 6.30 pm on Tuesday. The rangers returned fire, killing both their attackers and escaping any harm themselves.

A .458 calibre rifle with a silencer, a cane knife and two cellphones were recovered from the scene.

The identity and nationality of the suspects are unknown and the Organised Crime Unit is conducting further investigations.

iSimangaliso Park CEO Andrew Zaloumis said that the northern sections of KZN have seen a significant increase in the numbers of rhino poachers over the past months. “This incident follows on the heels of two other recent successes for iSimangaliso, during which Ezemvelo Field Rangers recovered a heavy calibre silenced firearm, and a rhino poacher with a silenced heavy calibre rifle was arrested,” Zaloumis said. “Given the hard work rangers put in to making these successes and adversities they face in the field, these achievements are significant.”

CEO of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Zondile Mkhize expressed concern that poachers have lost respect for law enforcement officials and the fact that the poaching happened around 6.30 pm shows how daring they are becoming. “They are prepared to shoot and kill whoever stands between them and a rhino horn. We do not encourage the killing of poachers, but at times our rangers are left with no choice as they defend themselves from these criminals who obviously do not value human life,” Mkhize said.

Mkhize added that they will be providing counselling to all the rangers involved as “such incidents can have long-term effects on them if not professionally attended to”.

Two of the three poachers arrested at the Phinda Game Reserve on Monday appeared in the Hluhluwe Magistrate’s Court yesterday. Michael Hlatshwayo (55) and Mbongiseni Masondo (31) are facing charges of illegal hunting, trespassing and unlawful possession of a firearm.

Both men have been remanded in custody and their bail application will be heard on November 11 at Hluhluwe periodical court.

The third accused, who was wounded, is still in hospital.

• amil.umraw@witness.co.za

As of Monday, 79 rhinos have been poached in KwaZulu-Natal this year. As many as 52 suspected rhino poachers have been arrested in the province since the beginning of the year and 36 firearms recovered.

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