Poachers nabbed with horns

2009-08-27 20:02

Johannesburg - Four men were arrested after they were caught red-handed with a .303 rifle and two freshly taken rhino horns, Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife said on Thursday.

"In the late afternoon of Wednesday, EKZNW field rangers in the Makhamisa area of the Imfolozi section heard a single gunshot," said the organisation's acting director of biodiversity conservation, Sifiso Kheswa.

He said that Imfolozi management staff then rapidly deployed rangers and police were contacted.

Blood-stained clothing

"Assisted by [police], a roadblock was quickly set up. At 19:00, a vehicle carrying four men approached and tried to avoid the roadblock, but was stopped.

"While inspecting the interior of the vehicle by torchlight the officers found a .303 rifle and it was noticed that some of the men in the vehicle had blood-stains on their clothing.

"An inspection of the load-bin of the vehicle revealed two freshly removed rhino horns. The occupants of the vehicle were immediately arrested and taken into custody."

He said an aerial reconnaissance was conducted on Thursday morning in the area that the shot was heard.

It resulted in the discovery of the carcass of a white rhino near the northern bank of the White Umfolozi River in the Zigubeni area, near the confluence of the two Umfolozi Rivers.

"We are very pleased with these arrests...This is a major breakthrough for us, and we are hoping that it leads to a great many more arrests," Kheswa said.

This incident brings the number of rhino killed in KwaZulu-Natal to 19 this year.