A total of 622 rhinos were poached in the Kruger National Park in 2016. Since the beginning of this year, the tally stands at 21, reports the Lowvelder.
These figures were placed on record in the Nelspruit Magistrates’ Court by senior state advocate Isabet Erwee on Wednesday.
It formed part of aggravating factors in support of a heavy sentence for convicted poacher Simon Ngubane.
He was found guilty last Friday of trespassing in the Kruger National Park, the theft of two rhino horns, conducting illegal activities (hunting) pertaining to a protected species (rhinos) and the illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition on December 11, 2011.
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Two hundred and fifty rhinos were poached in the park in 2011, 425 in 2012, 606 in 2013, 538 in 2014 and 826 in 2015.
Although the number in 2016 dropped by 204 compared to 2015, Erwee stressed that a “total onslaught on the rhino population” was still in full force.
In 2016, 281 arrests were made by anti-poaching officials. She added that the joint efforts between the police, the South African National Defence Force, SA National Parks and NGOs have been met with many challenges, as was the prosecution.
“In the past 18 days, six contacts have been reported in the park along with nine crossings of the fence. At least 41 rhino-poaching scenes have been reported. At each one, three or four individuals would have been involved,” she stated.
Erwee said arrests and convictions did not seem to scare off poachers.
“This is a crime of greed. Kingpins pay a lot, and the business has become a fashionable one. Although many suspects are killed during contacts or end up losing limbs, the lure of money is stronger than the fear of death,” she stressed.
It was placed on record that rangers patrol borders for thousands of kilometres, and the rough terrain in the park serves as an obstacle in their pursuit of poachers.
Once suspects are arrested, they are taken to Skukuza Magistrates’ Court, and their cases are added to an already overloaded court roll.
“A total of 25 to 30 matters is on that court roll every Wednesday. Some days, we have more than 50 accused in the dock. Trials cannot proceed and extra court dates have to be arranged,” said Erwee.
Magistrate André Geldenhuys added that the case at hand was one example of a poaching case being added to an already full court roll.
He postponed sentencing to January 25.
– Caxton News Service