Mbombela - Two rhino poachers, who were arrested after they were tracked by a Belgian Malinois dog in the Kruger National Park, have each been sentenced to 14 years imprisonment.
Andolino Mulcube, 20, and Jermano Tive, 20, were sentenced in the Nelspruit Regional Court on Tuesday.
They were convicted of killing and dehorning a white rhino and of killing a second one in the N'wanetsi area in Kruger National Park on January 19, 2013.
On the day of the incident, after rangers heard gunshots, Killer the tracking dog and two trackers followed the sounds. On the way they found blood, a rhino carcass and spoor.
Killer tracked the spoor which led to the arrest of the two accused who were hiding in some shrubs.
State prosecutor Advocate Isbet Erwee said after the accused had already killed and dehorned a rhino, they came across a second rhino which they also shot.
"That was the shot which alerted the rangers and soldiers. When confronted, one of their accomplices got away with the firearm," she said.
Erwee said, according to a report from a rhino task team commander, 640 rhino had already been killed in the Kruger Park.
"Most of the poachers are from Magude and Massingir villages in Mozambique, where syndicate bosses promise youngsters money if they return with a rhino horn," she said.
Erwee said it cost a lot to sustain the poaching activities.
'This was a special day'
She said South Africa budgeted R87m for training, helicopters, tracking dogs and handlers.
Magistrate Edward Hall said poaching was a serious offence.
"In each month there appears to be poaching in the country. I say this was a special day because during the accused's arrest, rangers received a message there was another poaching taking place at another specific area in the same park," Hall said.
Hall said that Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa had said that if something was not done, rhinos would be extinct by 2026.
"Despite prescribed sentences handed [out] and arrests, poaching still increases. It appears to be prevalent countrywide, not only in the Kruger Park. There appears to be planning... No one wakes up in the morning and suddenly decides to go rhino poaching,” he said.
Hall sentenced the two accused to three months each for entering South Africa illegally, four years each for illegal entry into the Kruger Park, seven years each for killing and dehorning a rhino, and another seven years for the other dead rhino.
Sentences on count one and two run concurrently, while count three and four would run consecutively, meaning the two would each serve 14 years in prison.