The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mrs Edna Molewa, the Hawks and SANParks have welcomed the arrest of a former SANParks field ranger and two SAPS members by South African National Parks (SANParks).
The arrest on Tuesday of the former SANParks field Sergeant and two police constables based at the Skukuza police station in the Kruger National Park was the results of a joint intelligence-driven operation between the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) and officials of the Kruger National Park.
Park rangers and the Endangered Species team of the Hawks were on their routine duties when they came across a black rhinoceros carcass in the Kruger National Park on Tuesday morning.
The team pulled a marked Skukuza police van over after receiving information. On searching the van, a person suspected of being a poacher, who was armed with a .375 hunting rifle and rounds of ammunition, was found. When the constables were asked about the man and the rifle, they could not give a satisfactory explanation and were arrested.
During the operation the rifle, ammunition, a silencer and poaching equipment was seized.
“The SANParks and SAPS officials who performed the arrests are congratulated for their outstanding work. The arrest sends a strong message that officials alleged to be involved in poaching will be arrested and face the full might of the law,” said Minister Molewa.
The Head of the Hawks in Mpumalanga, Major General Simon Mapyane, applauded the team under the stewardship of Colonel Johan Brits for work well done.
“Colonel Brits is going on pension this Friday, 30 May 2014, after serving the police for 39 years and eight days. He is leaving a mark and has handed the mantle to the team,” said General Mapyane.
“The suspects were tasked with the responsibility to patrol the streets around the park and to confront suspicious vehicles. It is clear that these members were doing the opposite,” added General Mapyane.
Both members are now facing charges of corruption and the person suspected of being a poacher is facing charges of being in the possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition. They will appear in the Skukuza Magistrates’ Court soon.
In another operation in the early hours of the 27 May 2014, rangers at Pretoriuskop made contact with a group of suspected poachers. During the incident, one of the suspects was fatally wounded and the remaining two managed to escape under the cover of darkness. Poaching equipment, a .458 hunting rifle and ammunition were recovered during the operation.
The Officer Commanding of the SANParks Rangers Corps, Major General (RET) Johan Jooste commended all the units that were involved in the arrests of the suspects. He added that the war was intensifying but the men and women in uniform were certainly up to the task.
“The incursions are now relentless and taking their toll on our resources, but we have men and women that are dedicated and fully committed to the cause, they are determined to win this war,” said Maj Gen Jooste.
These successes follow shortly after a very successful week of SANParks / SAPS operations both inside and outside the Kruger. Three foreign Chinese nationals were arrested in Gauteng on the 22nd May for possession and dealing in rhino horn, whilst six suspected poachers were arrested in the surrounding areas just outside the KNP and a further two arrested and two fatally wounded inside the KNP.
The Park has been under tremendous pressure from poachers, as it is home to over 80% of the global population of both white and black rhino that still roam in the wild. The animals are being illegally hunted for their horn, driven mainly by demand from South East Asia. Crime syndicates have been identified as the main culprits in recruiting those that kill the animals.
Since January 1, 2014, the Kruger National Park has lost 272 animals to poachers and 52 individuals have been arrested. A total of 419 rhino have been poached in South Africa so far this year.
Of the total number of rhino poached, 48 rhino have been killed in Limpopo, 41 in KwaZulu-Natal and 26 in North West. A total of 119 people have been arrested in connection with rhino poaching.
Maj Gen (ret) Jooste reminded South Africans that the battle will be won outside the reserves, when the kingpins are brought to book. He urged those with information to make use of the Tip-off lines 0800 205 005, 08600 10111 or 32211; contact Crime Line where they will remain anonymous or their nearest police station with information. He also thanked his team for their commitment and dedication to the fight to save South Africa’s Natural heritage.