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By Nicholas Zaal

Digital Journalist

Man found with six rhino horns absconds court

After initially trying to escape police, Chauke and his co-accused were found with six rhino horns worth an estimated R876 000.

The Hawks are looking for a 42-year-old man who, along with his co-accused, was discovered with six rhino horns in Ermelo.

Junior Gorge Mabele Chauke (42), originally from Giyani, Limpopo, had been appearing at court since his arrest in December… until he decided to abscond court.

Chauke and his co-accused Prince Ntsako Letswele, 33, were arrested by Ermelo Police on 8 December 2022, following information received.

ALSO READ: Suspected poachers nabbed with rhino horns after high-speed chase

Horns worth R876 000

“The team spotted a vehicle fitting the description and they stopped it. The occupants tried to escape but they were apprehended,” Captain Dineo Lucy Sekgotodi said.

“The vehicle was searched and six rhino horns worth an estimated value of R876 000 were found hidden and were confiscated.”

Junior Gorge Mabele Chauke
Junior Gorge Mabele Chauke. Photo: SA Police/X

The two were arrested. They appeared in court on several occasions and later were released on bail.

Letswele was re-arrested for a crime in eMkhondo, formerly called Piet Retief, which he committed while on bail. He remains in custody.

Chauke, however, absconded court. A warrant of his arrest was authorised on 1 March.

Hand yourself over

The provincial head of the Hawks, Major General Nicholas Jacobus Gerber has urged Chauke to hand himself over to authorities.

He also asked the public to assist with information about the whereabouts of Chauke by contacting the investigating officer, Warrant Officer RR Mokoena on 082 303 9965.

General Gerber assured the public that all information received will be dealt with confidentially.

ALSO READ: KZN reigns as epicentre of rhino poaching: A troubling increase in 2023

Poaching figures ‘nothing to celebrate’

While the Kruger National Park recorded a 37% decrease in rhinos poached from 2022 – according to 2023 figures – community groups said this was nothing to write home about.

A total of 499 rhinos were poached across South Africa in 2023. A total of 406 were killed on state property and 93 on privately owned parks, reserves and farms. This was an increase of 51 in comparison to the 448 rhinos poached in 2022.

The head of Outraged South African Citizens against Rhino Poaching Kim da Ribeira criticised the methodology used to present poaching statistics, calling for a more nuanced analysis which considered population figures.

She emphasised a decrease in poaching might not indicate success if it is accompanied by a decline in the rhino population.

ALSO READ: Rhino poaching figures nothing to celebrate – experts