By Chris Makhaye
Evemvelo KZN Wildlife believe that they are making some headway in the war against rhino poaching syndicates operating in the province.
This follows the killing of a suspected rhino poacher during a shoot-out with game rangers in the Umfolozi Game Reserve on Monday morning.
Three other suspected poachers were arrested and are expected to appear in the local magistrates’ court today.
Last week one of the suspects, Muntungowakhe Khoza, and an accomplice appeared in court. They were arrested earlier this month while in possession of two white rhino horns. Khoza is out on bail and is facing another charge of rhino poaching which happened more than three years ago.
Police said in the latest incident, game rangers were on a regular patrol when they spotted two men in the Umfolozi Game Reserve. When they tried to stop the men, they came under fire.
The rangers returned fire, fatally wounding one suspect. One man who escaped was later arrested along with two others after police stopped a Toyota Tazz inside the game reserve.
Rhino poaching has been rife in the province recently. So far, 16 rhinos have been killed this year. Last year 66 rhinos were killed and their horns hacked off by syndicate members.
The government has now stepped up its war against poachers. In the past two years the provincial government had given no less than R47m to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, specifically for the war against rhino poaching.
Spokesperson for Ezemvelo Musa Mntambo said they were doing everything they could to fight rhino poaching.
“Last year our main focus was on the awareness campaign so that communities can be aware of these syndicates operating in their midst,” he said.
He added that they were now fighting directly with the syndicate.
“Some only do the killings and others transport the horns,” said Mntambo.