By Ingrid Oellermann
Investigators have uncovered an alleged rhino poaching conspiracy involving two women, a high-powered rifle – and a hired gunman.
Their target? A rhino in a KwaZulu-Natal game reserve, one of the rapidly declining population of rhinos in South Africa, as poachers bring the species to the brink of extinction.
But, unbeknown to the two women, the “poacher” they procured was in fact an undercover police agent sent in after police got wind of their alleged plot to procure and sell rhino horn on the black market.
This is the basis of the case that the prosecution will set out to prove in court against two women from the Colenso district – Confidence Angel Mlambo, aged 32, and Nokwanda Trendy Khumalo, aged 22.
They are the first women in the province to face charges linked to the rhino poaching epidemic facing the country.
The number of rhinos poached so far this year in South Africa has climbed to an unprecedented 790, with 100 being killed in the past four weeks, according to statistics kept by the Department of Environmental Affairs.
In 2010, a total of 333 rhinos were killed and last year a total of 668 fell to poacher’s bullets.
Mlambo and Khumalo appeared briefly in the Ladysmith regional court on Monday charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, a hunting rifle, and with conspiracy to illegally hunt a rhino at Umsuluzi game park in the KZN Midlands on 24 April.
The case was postponed due to their lawyer withdrawing over non-payment. They were thereafter granted legal aid. More....