Men caught with rhino horns jailed for 10 years

2013-11-25 00:00

TWO men linked to the slaughter of a black rhino at Umfolozi/Hluhluwe game reserve on November 22, 2010 have each been sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.

They will effectively serve the next seven years in custody because the trial court at Vryheid took into account the three years they have already served in prison awaiting trial.

The poachers — Bonginkosi Siyaya (31) and Pefeni Khanyile (38) of Debe village near the game reserve — were caught red-handed in a taxi with a fresh pair of rhino horns after members of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s anti-poaching unit received information about the kill.

Section ranger for the area where the poaching incident occurred, Lawrence Munro, welcomed the sentences, which he said were the result of great teamwork between various people including the Vryheid police, EKZNW’s anti-poaching unit, Warrant Officer J.P. Roux of the Organised Crime Unit and state advocate Yuri Gangai, who conducted the prosecution.

The initial lead about the shooting of the rhino in the Makhamisa section of Umfolozi game reserve was received by the anti-poaching unit from an informer.

The unit was told a rhino had been killed and the poachers were taking the horns to Johannesburg to sell and would be travelling via Vryheid.

Vryheid police immediately set up an impromptu roadblock, catching Siyaya and Khanyile in a taxi in possession of a bag containing the freshly cut rhino horns.

Meanwhile, Munro issued orders to field rangers in the game reserve to patrol the wilderness area and they recovered the carcass of the slain black rhino. During a postmortem performed by Ezemvelo veterinarian Dave Cooper, an AK47 bullet head was recovered from the carcass. During a subsequent search of the suspects’ homesteads an AK47 rifle was recovered from a stream bed close to Khanyile’s house.

The court rejected the accused’s defence to the effect that they had nothing to do with the killing of the rhino and were given the horns by someone else.

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