Rhino: dna lands poachers in jail

2011-04-22 00:00

TWO rhino poachers were sentenced to an effective 20 years’ jail each by the Ulundi Regional Court yesterday.

Gemfu Khoza (29) and Sibusiso Luthuli (42) were found guilty of illegal hunting of a rhinoceros and for possessing of illegal firearms and ammunition after they were caught hunting in the iMfolozi section of the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park in December 25, 2009.

KZN Wildlife spokesperson Jeff Gaisford said both men had pleaded not guilty to the charges. He said that on the day of their arrest Khoza and Luthuli exchanged fire with Ezemvelo field rangers, which resulted in the death of a third suspect, Nhlanhla Ncanana.

The two were wounded in the shooting. The rangers recovered an unlicensed .303 calibre bolt action rifle and a 30-06 Musgrave Model 98 Bolt action rifle, two axes and two freshly removed rhino horns, which had been crudely removed.

“Ballistic analysis linked the firearms to a dead rhino found nearby and the horns recovered were also linked by DNA analysis to the same carcass. A post-mortem examination of the rhino revealed that it had been shot six times and that an axe had been used to immobilise the animal by severing its spine,” said Gaisford.

This could be the first successful prosecution in which a DNA comparison was used in securing a conviction in a case of illegal rhino hunting.

Magistrate Xolo sentenced Khoza and Luthuli to five years’ imprisonment in respect of the illegal hunting of rhino, 14 years in respect of the possession of firearms and one year in respect of the possession of ammunition.

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