Search continues for missing wildlife rangers

2012-06-25 00:00

AUTHORITIES remained hopeful that search teams looking for two Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife field rangers who went missing on Friday afternoon on Nhlabane Lake near Richards Bay will find the men alive.

Various authorities, including Ezemvelo, the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), the police and the Transnet National Port Authority (TNPA) pulled together during the weekend to launch a full-scale search and rescue operation for the men, who were paddling in a large canoe.

A solitary rowing paddle is the only thing that the teams have been able to find thus far.

Ezemvelo spokesperson Musa Mntambo told The Witness that the two men, who are stationed at Enseleni Nature Reserve, were part of a team of four rangers who found four gill nets near a large canoe in the lake on Friday afternoon.

“They decided to remove them [the nets] and take them to where they had parked their official cars. Nearby was a large canoe that they assumed was for the individual/s who had put up the gill nets,” explained Mntambo.

The rangers decided to confiscate the canoe and use it to transport the four nets to their official cars. “Two rangers jumped into the canoe as it would have been too heavy to carry it, whilst the other two walked on foot to where the cars were parked,” said Mntam­bo.

Sadly, their colleagues waited in vain for the two men to arrive at the meeting point.

“The two officials on foot arrived at the parking spot before the two rangers in a canoe. This was strange as it was expected that the rangers who had paddled to the parking spot would have arrived first. Cellphone connection with the rangers who were in the canoe failed and, at that time, this was attributed to poor mobile network connection in the area,” Mntam­bo added.

Ezemvelo then intensified their search efforts. This was followed by the involvement of the NSRI, which deployed its sea rescue craft Rotary Anne to the lake, as well as a team of divers from the Border Police and the Dog Unit from Pietermaritzburg.

A “night sun” search light on the TNPA’s PortNet search and rescue helicopter was also used in the operation.

Dorian Robertson, NSRI Richards Bay station commander warned that the lake’s waters are known to be infested with crocodiles and hippo. While the teams had called off their search for the day yesterday evening, Mntambo stressed that they would resume today (Monday).

“Ezemvelo remains resolute that the two rangers are still alive and will not give up the search until contrary information emerges. The names of the rangers involved will only be divulged at a later stage,” said Mntambo.

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