By Alex Mitchley
Two police constables have been arrested for allegedly aiding a poacher as they transported him in a marked police van on Tuesday evening near the Kruger National Park.
Hawks spokesperson Paul Ramaloko confirmed that the arrest came after park rangers and the Hawks’ Endangered Species teamcame across a black rhinoceros carcass during routine duties in the park.
The two police officers, who are based at the Skukuza Police Station in Mpumalanga, were pulled over after the Hawks received 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,” said Ramaloko.
“When the constables were asked about the man and the rifle, they could not give a satisfactory explanation and were arrested,” he added.
The Head of the Hawks in Mpumalanga, Major General Simon Mapyane said 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,” said Mapyane.
Both police officers are now facing charges of corruption and the suspected poacher will be charged with being in the possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition.
All three suspects are expected to appear in the Skukuza Magistrates’ Court soon.
An update on rhino poaching statistics by the Department of Environmental Affairs released earlier this month stated that 376 Rhino have been poached in South Africa since the beginning of the year.
A staggering 245 of the total tally were poached from the KNP. In 2013, a total of 1004 rhino were killed for their horns, of which 606 were killed in the KNP.