Just got a media release from the Department of Environmental affairs and it shocked me to the core. Not because I didn’t expect it — I mean, I have long expected it to be happening — but because there was confirmation of it. The news is this: on Tuesday, a former SA National Parks field ranger and two SAPS officers were arrested for involvement in rhino poaching.
Keep in mind that SAN Parks are the people who are responsible for most of SA’s national parks, including the Kruger.
The joint statement (unedited) by The Hawks and the Department says:
“The arrest on Tuesday of the former SANParks field Sergeant and two police constables based at the Skukuza police station in the Kruger National Park was the results of a joint intelligence-driven operation between the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) and officials of the Kruger National Park. Park rangers and the Endangered Species team of the Hawks were on their routine duties when they came across a black rhinoceros carcass in the Kruger National Park on Tuesday morning.
“The team pulled a marked Skukuza police van over after receiving 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. When the constables were asked about the man and the rifle, they could not give a satisfactory explanation and were arrested.
“During the operation the rifle, ammunition, a silencer and poaching equipment was seized.”
The SAPS officers will face charges of corruption, while the former field ranger will face charges relating to his possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition. According to the statement, they will appear in the Skukuza Magistrate’s Court “soon”.
The Department also revealed that a suspected poacher was killed during a gunfight involving rangers at Pretoriuskop, also in the Kruger Park, on Tuesday. Two other suspected poachers escaped in the early-morning darkness. Poaching equipment, a .458 hunting rifle and ammunition were recovered.
While it is undoubtedly good news that officials are acting and having some success, the latest poaching figures released in the report make for extremely sobering reading.
“Since January 1, 2014, the Kruger National Park has lost 272 animals to poachers and 52 individuals have been arrested. A total of 419 rhino have been poached in South Africa so far this year.”
Of those 419, 48 rhino have been killed in Limpopo, 41 in KwaZulu-Natal and 26 in North West. A total of 119 people have been arrested in connection with rhino poaching.