By Shaun Smillie
The preferred weapon of choice for poachers in Kruger National Park has become the large-calibre hunting rifle, typically used to bring down big game like buffalo, elephant and rhino.
But the mystery is: Where do these guns come from, and who has the know-how and equipment to fit the silencers that law enforcement authorities are increasingly finding on these weapons?
Some anti-poaching personnel suspect that these guns might have been smuggled into Mozambique from somewhere else.
But organisations like the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) say there is no evidence of this.
Then again, no one, it appears, has been looking.
Usually the focus is on the movement of illegal military weapons.
Poachers have been arrested with an assortment of weapons; some of them older models, others practically new.
A poacher was recently arrested with a new .375 calibre rifle that would cost between R16 000 and R18 000 in South Africa. It is not known if this weapon was stolen.
A police source said these weapons often didn’t come up as stolen in South Africa. They also differ from the guns poachers were using to hunt elephants in Kruger National Park three decades ago.
These, said one policeman, were old, often with stocks that had been eaten by termites. They might have come from an arms cache.
One source for these weapons could be Mozambique.
“From my understanding, control over hunting rifles in Mozambique is virtually non-existent,” said Ben Coetzee, a senior researcher with the ISS Arms Management Programme. “Firearms get lost and aren’t reported stolen all the time, making it very easy for the dedicated poacher to identify a hunter and to steal the weapon once it is unguarded.” More....