Biltong poachers arrested

2009-06-23 00:00

A STING operation organised by community members and the police on Sunday nabbed five poachers who allegedly terrorised the Lower Mpushini Valley Conservancy in Ashburton, killing Nyalas.

They were caught with another Nyala they had just killed.

The poachers, who allegedly kill the animals because they make good biltong, have apparently decimated the Nyala population in the conservancy.

Stuart Knight, one of the community members who were instrumental in catching the poachers, said the co-operation between the community and the police was instrumental in catching the poachers.

“For months these guys have been operating with impunity, because we could never catch them killing an animal or with a dead animal that they had just shot,” said Knight.

Describing how they caught them, Knight said, “We had to play the waiting game. We saw them go in and unfortunately we had to wait until they had killed an animal before we could actually have them arrested. And when they did, the police caught them.”

Knight said the reality of the situation is that poaching was decimating the population of the Nyala’s in the conservancy.

He said, upon investigation, the police discovered evidence of other poaching incidents photographed on one of the poacher’s cellphones.

“In one of the poacher’s cellphones there were pictures of all the animals that they have killed before, and hopefully that will be enough to convict them and get them a stiff fine or a jail sentence.”

Jeff Gaisford, spokesperson for Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife (EKZNW), said although they focus on rehabilitating the offenders, they also emphasised punishment. And its severity depended on the offence.

“People should be aware that for any hunting they need the permission of EKZNW and of the land owner. Without that … it is illegal.”

Police Senior Superintendent Henry Budhram confirmed the incidents and said, although investigations are continuing, five suspects have already been arrested and detained for hunting without a permit.

They are expected to appear in court soon.

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