Rhino poacher jailed

2013-08-16 08:08
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Johannesburg – A man was sentenced in effect to 14 years in prison for poaching by the Nelspruit Regional Court on Thursday.

A Sapa correspondent reported that rangers arrested 21-year-old Leonard Mhlongo, from Mozambique, and his co-accused Kenneth Sibiya, in the Mjokwane section of the Kruger National Park (KNP) on 19 January.

They had killed and dehorned a black rhino cow and its calf.

Prosecutor Isbet Erwee told the court the two men were found in possession of three black rhino horns, two from the cow and one from its calf. She said a third suspect, who carried the rifle used in the killing, escaped when the two men were arrested.

The two faced charges of entering the KNP to commit a restricted activity without obtaining permission from management, and two charges of performing a restricted activity in a designated area.

"The other accused, Sibiya, skipped bail and has disappeared. Police are tracking his whereabouts," Erwee said. In a statement read out in court, Mhlongo, who worked in Mozambique and earned about R1 230 per month, said Sibiya fetched him from home and invited him to come work in South Africa.

"I did unlawfully cross and enter the border into the Kruger National Park with Sibiya. After we met up with another man inside the park, it was when I realised what they wanted us to do," he said.

"I had no authority to kill the two rhino and I request the court for a fine as I plan to raise R20 000 to pay,” he said.

In passing sentence, magistrate Edward Hall said that according to Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, if no solution was found to stop the killing of rhino, there would be none left in the country by 2026.

"It is a nationwide problem as we read in newspapers every day. The accused is from Mozambique and a second one skipped bail, which shows the attitude of poachers.

"To enter illegally in the KNP with a firearm is a planned criminal activity. The calf could have been saved and been there for generations to come, but it was killed together with its mother,” Hall said.

Hall said the number of rhino killed in the current year to August exceeded last year’s figure by 140.

He sentenced Mhlongo to four years in prison for entering the KNP illegally, 10 years for killing the rhino cow, and eight years for killing the calf. The eight years would run concurrently with the 10 years. Mhlongo was declared unfit to own a firearm.

- SAPA
Read more on:    edna molewa  |  rhino poaching
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