By Jamie-Leigh Matroos
Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, applauded the capture of a former South African National Parks (SANParks) ranger and two South African Police Service (SAPS) officials, in connection with a poaching incident at Kruger National Park on Tuesday.
“The SANParks and SAPS officials who performed the arrests are congratulated for their outstanding work. The arrest sends a strong message that officials alleged to be involved in poaching will be arrested and face the full might of the law,” said Molewa.
The arrests were made after Park rangers and the Endangered Species team of the Hawks came across a black rhinoceros carcass in the Kruger National Park on Tuesday morning.
An intelligence driven operation led the team to a marked Skukuza police van.
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. When the constables were asked about the man and the rifle, they could not give a satisfactory explanation and were arrested. Other poaching equipment was also found.
The Head of the Hawks in Mpumalanga, Major General Simon Mapyane, applauded the team which carried out the operation.
“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,” added Mapyane.
The SAPS officials are now facing charges of corruption and the person suspected of being a poacher is facing charges of being in the possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition. They are expected to appear in the Skukuza Magistrates’ Court soon.
The Officer Commanding of the SANParks Rangers Corps, Major General (RET) Johan Jooste said the war against poaching was intensifying but officials were up to the task.
“The incursions are now relentless and taking their toll on our resources, but we have men and women that are dedicated and fully committed to the cause, they are determined to win this war,” said Jooste.
Since January 1, 2014, the Kruger National Park has lost 272 animals to poachers and 52 individuals have been arrested. A total of 419 rhinos have been poached in South Africa so far this year.