SANParks employee, cop arrested for alleged rhino poaching

2017-03-29 18:31
(File, Alexander Joe, AFP)

(File, Alexander Joe, AFP)

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Johannesburg - A SANParks employee and a police officer are among 13 suspected rhino poachers arrested in the Kruger National Park, a spokesperson said on Wednesday.

The arrests were made during three operations on Tuesday, William Mabasa said.

During one, one of the alleged poachers was shot and died after his arrest. His accomplice was arrested. A field ranger was shot in the foot and airlifted to hospital.

Five people, including the police officer, were arrested at the Paul Kruger gate, Mpumalanga, when they tried to enter the park posing as tourists.

Six people, including the SANParks employee, were arrested at the Phalaborwa gate in Limpopo. They were found in possession of a high-calibre rifle, another firearm, ammunition, and poaching equipment.

They would appear in the Mapulaneng Magistrate's Court, in Bushbuckridge, on Thursday.

The SANParks employee was an environmental monitor based at the Letaba camp in the park and would face an internal disciplinary hearing, in addition to criminal proceedings.

Last week, rangers arrested 10 suspected poachers in different parts of the park with the help of police, the National Intervention Unit and K9 unit. Several .458 rifles with silencers, ammunition, an axe, fresh rhino horns, and other poaching equipment were recovered. One of the suspects managed to escape.

The group appeared in the Skukuza Magistrate's Court shortly after their arrest.

SANParks has steadily increased security since 2012, when the rhino poaching scourge began to escalate. Mabasa said they had begun to rely more on technology, such as wide-angle surveillance cameras, after realising that hiring more rangers was not yielding results.

"We started bringing in additional equipment, like night vision equipment, additional helicopters. We bought in the K9 unit to assist at the gate, and to also assist rangers in the bush to track the poachers."

Although security was being strengthening inside the park, communities around the park played a crucial role in identifying poachers.

"There are communities where these runners are sitting with bags and bags of money and they are buying innocent people to do the dirty work for them. We must identify those people so that we can arrest them," he said.

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