Rhino poaching case starts

Eleven people, including two veterinarians, were brought into the Musina Magistrates Court today to face charges related to rhino poaching.

Looking nervous and tired, the group stood silently, waiting for proceedings to start after a two-and-a-half-hour delay.

Most of the men were dressed in khaki shirts and denims. One of the two women was wearing a kaftan, the other a polka-dot top with black pants.

The police on Monday arrested nine people, including two veterinarians who were apparently well-known in Modimolle, Limpopo, and who owned an animal clinic and a wildlife organisation involved in catching and transporting game.

The nine included the spouse of one of the vets, a game farmer and his wife and a professional hunter. Two more people have since been arrested.

National police spokesperson Colonel Vishnu Naidoo said the vets were believed to be the masterminds behind the rhino poaching syndicate.

Inside court, stone-faced family members of the accused waited silently for the case to start. They refused to talk to journalists.

Earlier, three photographers were detained for taking pictures of the accused while they were being loaded into a police van.

Sapa photographer Werner Beukes, Beeld photographer Herman Verwey and SABC cameraman Llewellyn Carstens were held for 45 minutes by the local station commander before provincial authorities intervened and they were released.

More than 200 rhinos had been killed for their horns since the beginning of this year – up from a total of 122 poached last year.

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