Poaching: Gruesome hippo discovery

2010-10-14 22:17

Johannesburg - A 30-year-old man arrested for hippo poaching after a butchery of hippo meat, skin and skulls was found in northern KwaZulu-Natal appeared in court on Thursday, police said.

Colonel Jay Naicker said Sipho Bhekizwe Zikhali appeared in the Mbazwane Magistrate's Court where his case was postponed to October 21 for bail application.

He faced charges of illegal hunting, possession of animal products, and possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition.

He was arrested on Wednesday after the Public Order Policing unit received information and went to a house in Mazibumvo in Northern Zululand.

Naicker said the house had been taken over by criminals after the legal owners had died, and was being used as a butchery and store by poachers.

Inside, police found 32 strips of hippo fat, each about 1m long, hanging on meat hooks over a plastic bath tub.

Bones uncovered

In another room, four hippo snares, made out of heavy steel cable, were found.

A crocodile snare, 15 cable snares used for small animals, and 36 strips of hippo skin were also found in the room.

"These (hippo skin) would be made into sjamboks," said Naicker.

Outside the house, police found pieces of hippo skin and fat hanging in trees, and a gutted hippo foetus that had been left to dry.

"Two freshly dug holes were dug open and more bones and skin was uncovered," he said.

The man was found nearby and initially detained.

"He took police to his house which was 400m away. At his house, a left front foot of a hippo and the skulls of five hippos were found."

Police seized a rifle with 21 rounds of ammunition.

Wildlife authorities in the province said it was the first time so many poached hippos had been found in one location.

"The arrest and confiscations are a major blow to illegal hunting in the Isimangoleso Wetland Park.

Such operations in the area will be conducted on an ongoing basis," said Naicker.

iSimangaliso Wetland Authority chief executive officer, Andrew Zaloumis, said they looked forward to the outcome of the court case.

"It is most encouraging to us all to know that with the support of our public and dedicated staff we can beat the poachers and they must not expect a soft deal from us."

Ezemvelo KZN Wildife chief executive officer Bandile Mkhize said: "We are actively pursuing many leads with regards to poaching across KZN and our public can look forward to more news in the future regarding the arrests of poachers."