Illegal hunting: cops in court

2009-08-24 00:00

FOUR men, including a police captain and an inspector from Westville, appeared in a Pietermaritzburg court on Friday for allegedly poaching three endangered oribi antelope on private land in Thornville on Thursday night.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s District conservation officer for Richmond/Ixopo, Brent Coverdale said the four suspects were found in possession of a female and two male oribi that had been shot dead at night, allegedly from a motor vehicle and with the use of lights.

It is alleged that they did not have permits to hunt at all, but in any event would not get a permit to shoot oribi as they are on the endangered species list.

A neighbouring farmer reportedly called the police after he noticed beams of light and unusual activity on Leliefontein farm. He telephoned the owner to find out if he had given anyone permission to hunt on the property and was told he had not.

The accused are SAPS Captain Rakesh Maharaj (42), Inspector Desan Pillay (33), Rohith Bhikhari (51) of Pinetown and his son, Ashveer Bhikhari (26).

The men were granted bail of R2 000 on Friday and the case was postponed to September 30 for further investigation.

Coverdale told The Witness that oribi are regarded as highly endangered with fewer than 1 500 remaining in KwaZulu-Natal and only 2 000 throughout the country.

“They are particularly vulnerable to illegal hunting both with guns and dogs as they have a habit of running a short distance and then lying down in a bid to evade detection,” said Coverdale.

He added that it is “disappointing” for conservationists when policemen, who are supposed to enforce the law, are implicated in poaching.

SAPS wildlife investigator Riaan van Rooyen confirmed the arrests and court appearances.

He said the police confiscated a .223 hunting rifle with a telescope at the crime scene along with three 9mm handguns, including two police service pistols.

Spent .223 cartridges were found in the bakkie used by the alleged poachers, a Nissan double-cab owned by Pillay. The bakkie was also seized by the police as an alleged instrument of crime.

Van Rooyen urged anyone with information about illegal hunting to contact him at 082 448 5319.

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