SANParks poaching: Hawks hunt horns
Johannesburg - Four SA National Parks (SANParks) officials arrested in connection with rhino poaching will appear in the White River Magistrate's Court on Thursday, the Hawks said.
The four face charges of poaching and defeating the ends of justice, spokesperson McIntosh Polela said.
"The investigations continue... We are still looking for one suspect who we believe has the weapon that was used to kill the two rhino and has the rhino horns."
The four were arrested on Tuesday afternoon after a rhino cow and her calf were found shot and dehorned in the Kruger National Park (KNP) earlier that morning.
"Further investigations into the killing of the two rhino and possibly other rhino poaching incidents in the area are currently being conducted," SANParks spokesperson Wanda Mkutshulwa said.
All four officials were stationed in the Pretoriuskop section of the park, where 11 rhino had been killed since the beginning of the year.
One of the four was a field ranger involved in the ongoing strike at the park. Another was a traffic officer connected to the protection services unit.
The Democratic Alliance welcomed the arrest and action taken by SANParks, saying it was distressing that people tasked with protecting wildlife betrayed their mandate in the worst possible way.
"To prevent the recurrence of such abuse, strong steps must now be taken to vet current staff in the park, and to ensure the comprehensive vetting of all future staff," DA MP Gareth Morgan said in a statement.
Tuesday's discovery brought the total number of rhino killed in the park since January 1 to 43, and nationwide to 80.
Fifty people had been arrested in connection with poaching since the start of the year, said Mkutshulwa.
SANParks chief executive David Mabunda said: "I am personally saddened to discover that some of our own would so callously abuse the confidence and faith that we have entrusted upon them."
KNP spokesperson Gabrielle Venter said in a statement on Friday that a joint meeting between park officials and union representatives would take place on Wednesday in an attempt to resolve the strike.
This was "to consider the extent of salary disparities, where identified, and recommend measures to be implemented to ensure salary parity", she said.