Media Release: Suspected rhino poachers caught in KNP sentenced to 10 years without fine
Two suspected rhino poachers, Joao Mdlovu and Berlito Mdlovu who were arrested on the Nwanetsi section of Kruger National Park (KNP) in January 2010 for rhino poaching activities were both found guilty for the possession of a illegal firearms namely a G3 fully automatic fire arm and a .375 hunting rifle.
Both accused offered a plea of guilty in the Nelspruit Regional Court for the possession of the illegal weapons. They were both sentenced to 10 years imprisonment without the option of a fine on Tuesday, 23 March 2010.
Joao Mdlovu is still undergoing court proceedings, together with Phanuel Mnisi, for the illegal hunting of rhino in the KNP in 2009.
Dr David Mabunda, Chief Executive of South African National Parks said: “SANParks is leading the way against rhino poaching and has been mandated by the Minister of Environment to co-ordinate other conservation agencies throughout the country and to us the Minister’s gesture demonstrates a vote of confidence in our ability to fight this scourge.”
This year alone Kruger has lost 13 rhinos for which we have arrested 11 poachers and dealers and the country has lost a total of 46 rhinos collectively.
“The kind of people we are arresting are also on the list of highly wanted criminals by the police and are involved in crimes such as human trafficking, drug-trafficking, vehicle hijacking, murder, bank robberies etc. It is a war out there,” said Dr Mabunda.
Dr Mabunda said further that the problem with rhino poaching is that the surge in demand for rhino horn is driven by a combination of endemic poverty in many rhino habitats, the existence of a lucrative black market niche in South East Asia for medicinal purposes and the availability of sophisticated channels to ship the ‘cargo’ through the many ports of exit/entry in South Africa.
Syndicates are currently making use of military precision, automatic rifles, silencers, helicopters and prescription tranquilizers to kill rhino for their horn.
“No matter how hard we try to reduce or stamp out this inferno, the solution will not come from focusing on arresting foot-soldiers but taking the war to the “Armani-suits and silk tie” clad rhino dealers and reduce the demand in South East Asia through international interventions driven by CITES.”
SANParks has increased its anti-poaching capability by increasing “rangers-on-the beat” to over 400 persons in Kruger alone, two helicopters, two fixed wing planes, two bantam micro-lite aircrafts and a sophisticated communication system. They work with closely with the SAPS’ organised crime division and the Prosecuting Authority and are on the verge of deploying the SANDF Army Reserve Volunteers to bolster their infantry. The equation will be completed with the return of the full-time SANDF Army to take charge of the borders of the Kruger Park during the latter part of 2010.
“A lot of work is underway to stabilise the situation and we are confident that the collective interventions by all law-enforcement local and international agencies will eventually curb or reduce, if not stop, rhino poaching altogether,” concluded Dr Mabunda.
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