Greytown: Poachers fire at police on private game reserve

2011-07-21 00:00

GREYTOWN police came under gunfire yesterday morning when they responded to a report of poaching on Thornview Farm, a private game reserve just outside the town.

About seven men gained entry to the game farm and started hunting animals.

Farm manager Sulakhe Mthalane said the men arrived at the farm with dogs and guns at about 10 am.

“As I was in the house I heard gunshots and the barking of dogs. I phoned the owner in Pretoria and then phoned the police, who were quick to arrive. I took them to where I thought the gunshots were coming from and they spotted the men,” said Mthalane.

On spotting the police, the men opened fire and a gun battled ensued for a short time, he said. The police called for back-up and more officers and a police helicopter were dispatched to the farm.

“We spotted two blesbuck, which were shot by these poachers. It’s not the first time [poachers] have come onto the farm. Just last week the farm owner shot three dogs which came on to the farm with poachers, but we could not locate the owners.

“The problem is that there are thick bushes on this farm so intruders can easily disappear,” Mthalane said.

The poachers evaded arrest, although the helicopter had been tracking them from above.

A police source in Greytown said the poachers may have been aware that the farm owner was out of town.

He said there were no police casualties. It was not clear whether any of the suspects were hit. The poachers escaped towards Msinga.

Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said police found two blesbuck carcasses valued at about R3 800.

He said the poachers used AK-47 and .303 rifles. Cartridges of both weapons were found at the scene.

No arrests have been made and the police appeal to anyone with information that can assist in their investigation to call station commander Lieutenant Colonel Sipho Maphalala at 033 413 9017 or 082 556 8259.

Meanwhile, on the border with Mozambique in the Kruger National Park, the deployment of South African Defence Force soldiers has seen poaching decline from 333 rhinos shot last year to no incidents last month.

But, said Ken Maggs, head of SANParks’ anti-poaching unit, there is a marked increase in the aggression and firepower of the poachers caught by the soldiers.

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