Mfolozi Game Reserve field ranger killed in friendly fire incident

2011-09-13 00:00

EZEMVELO KZN Wildlife is mourning the loss of a “highly respected and committed” field ranger who was accidentally shot dead by colleagues while the group was on the trail of suspected rhino poachers in Mfolozi Game Reserve at the weekend.

The ranger was identified as Zephania Mbuso Myeni (39), who had worked for EKZNW for 18 years.

The organisation said he had been a “very influential front man on combating poaching” in its reserves.

EKZNW said the accident happened after field rangers from the Madlozi camp picked up two tracks belonging to humans leading in a southerly direction into the wilderness area on Saturday evening.

After reporting to the command structure, four field rangers were despatched, including Myeni, who held the rank of corporal in the anti poaching unit.

Poachers allegedly fired three shots at about 6.30 pm.

On their way to the scene the team divided into two groups in order to reach the site as soon as possible and cover a larger area.

The two teams intercepted one another in the darkness.

Hearing nearby human activity, the leading group took cover waiting to see whether the sounds were poachers or their colleagues.

Said EKZNW media spokesperson Maureen Zimu, “Waiting to hear a familiar sound … the staff sergeant heard a gun fire and a bullet flash through the undergrowth.”

The staff sergeant shouted out, identifying them as Ezemvelo rangers, but the shooting continued and Myeni was hit and died.

EKZNW CEO Bandile Mkhize said it was heart-wrenching that “committed and selfless field rangers” were responsible for mistakenly killing one of their own members.

He said the suspected poachers escaped.

A recently acquired Bantam anti-poaching aircraft flew over the area to search for rhino that may have been wounded or killed in the incident.

EKZNW will conduct an internal investigation into the incident and ensure that stricter measures are put in place to prevent an incident like this happening again.

Mkhize was expected to visit Myeni’s family at Hlabisa outside the Hluhluwe iMfolozi reserve yesterday afternoon.

EKZNW’s rhino security intervention co-ordinator, Jabulani Ngubane, paid tribute to Myeni as a “dedicated and committed” field ranger.

Ngubane said Myeni had been the recipient of numerous accolades and awards, including bravery awards and the Golden Lions Head, which is awarded for the successful recovery of a loaded gun.

As a member of the anti-poaching unit Myeni took part in many dangerous operations, including combined security operations involving the police and Ezemvelo.

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