Rangers kill poacher in long shoot-out

2013-11-07 00:00

A SHOOT-OUT between game rangers and poachers at a private game reserve ended with one poacher being killed on Tuesday morning.

The rangers at Thula Thula reserve, in the Ngwelezane area of northern KwaZulu-Natal, responded to the sound of gunshots in the southern part of the reserve at about 7 am.

Reserve managing director Francoise Anthony said rangers came upon a group of six men who fired at them.

An exchange of gunfire ensued, with one ranger hurt and one suspected poacher shot and killed.

Anthony said the remaining men escaped and the patrollers then found animal intestines in the area of the shooting.

“At this stage we don’t know what animal was killed because we did not find the carcass. We understand that the police arrested five suspects for their involvement in this incident,” she said.

Anthony said three men, two with firearms and one with an axe and searchlights, were spotted by rangers two weeks ago. She said one man escaped while two were arrested.

Anthony said poaching at the reserve was not common, adding that the last incident, where a rhino was killed, happened many years ago.

Reserve general employee Vusi Gumede said the gunfire continued for about an hour.

“I heard a patroller on my two-way radio calling for back-up from other patrollers. I knew that something was wrong and minutes later gunshots rang out. At about 9 am I drove towards the direction of the shooting, where I found the wounded colleague and rushed him to a nearby hospital. Other poachers had escaped and the police followed their trail. I don’t know what the outcome was and we don’t know which animal was killed by the poachers,” he said.

Gumede was reluctant to divulge what species of animals were kept at the reserve, although it is known that rhino and elephant are among the stock.

Provincial police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said five men aged between 25 and 40 were arrested at the reserve. “On arrival at the scene, a 40-year-old man was already dead and a patroller had gunshot wounds. The patroller is in hospital in a stable condition,” said Zwane.

He said a licensed .303 assault rifle was confiscated from the suspected poachers.

The firearm belonged to the father of the dead man, who was later arrested for allowing a person to possess his firearm without a licence.

The suspects will appear in the Ngwelezane Magistrate’s Court on charges of attempted murder and illegal possession of a firearm today.

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