By Peter Ramothwala
The fight against rhino poaching continues as more suspects face the full might of the law.
This after five suspected rhino poachers were arrested and are set to appear in the Phalaborwa Magistrate’s Court today for possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition.
The police in Gravelotte, outside Phalaborwa, arrested five suspected rhino poachers on Thursday, who were believed to be on their way to kill a rhino at a nearby game reserve.
Police spokesperson, Brig Hangwani Mulaudzi, said the police spotted a suspicious looking Isuzu bakkie, with three occupants, parked in Gravelotte.
“While still monitoring it, a black BMW X5 approached and parked next to it. All the occupants from the bakkie jumped into the BMW X5 but before they could take off the police pounced on them,” he said.
Mulaudzi said upon searching the suspects’ vehicle, police found a hunting rifle with a serial number filed off with 20 rounds of live ammunition, three butchers’ knives and a pair of work suits.
“Initial investigations have revealed that one of the suspects was once arrested for the same offence,” he said.
Meanwhile, the total number of rhinos poached in the country since the beginning of this year has increased to 172. The figure was released this month.
The department of environment affairs spokesperson, Albi Modise, said, the number of people arrested for rhino poaching-related offences climbed to 54.
“The Kruger National Park remains hardest hit by rhino poaching, having lost 113 rhinos since January. A total of 18 rhinos have been poached for their horn in Limpopo, 17 in North West and 11 in KwaZulu-Natal,” he said.
Twenty-four poachers have been arrested in the Kruger National Park and 15 in KwaZulu-Natal.
Last week, South Africa and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam met to improve cooperation in controlling the illicit wildlife trade and rhino poaching.