Instead of cashing in on the illegal rhino horn trade, a would-be poacher was ordered to pay thousands of rands into the Kruger National Park’s anti-rhino poaching fund this week.
On 10 October last year, the 27-year-old Chico Maluleke from Mozambique was caught armed with a .375 Winchester hunting rifle and ammunition, walking in the Punda Maria area of the national park. He appeared before the Louis Trichardt Regional Court on Monday, where he pleaded guilty to single counts of a restricted activity in a special nature reserve, illegal possession of a firearm, illegal possession of ammunition and illegal access to a national park.
Maluleke, when arrested, told park rangers that he was only hunting game for their meat. During his court appearance on Monday, he also used this excuse as extenuating circumstances as to why he should not be sent directly to jail. Maluleke also admitted that he was a first-time offender and truly showed remorse by pleading guilty.
Regional state prosecutor Hilke Janse van Rensburg, however, argued that with such a big calibre weapon it was doubtful that Maluleke was in the KNP to hunt for small animals. “It is lucky for us that the park rangers were on duty, otherwise he might have shot and killed a rhino or elephant,” said Janse van Rensburg.
Maluleke was fined R20 000, payable to the rhino fund of the KNP. In addition, he was also sentenced to four years' direct imprisonment, suspended for four years.