Four suspected rhino poachers arrested and one sentenced in the KNP


South African National Parks (SANParks) has arrested four rhino poachers in the Kruger National Park (KNP) over the weekend of 15-18 October. Members of the Rangers Corp, assisted by the K9 Unit and the aviators of the Airwing effected the arrests in the Stolznek section of the Park.

In the first incident on Friday, 15 October, rangers followed up on a spoor and startled the suspected poachers sitting under a tree. They tried to flee but the rangers quickly rounded up and successfully apprehended them. A high calibre hunting rifle, ammunition and poaching equipment were seized at the scene. The suspects will appear in court in due course while investigations continue, SANParks said.

The second incident took place on Saturday, 16 October. Rangers followed up after hearing gunshots and stumbled upon two suspected poachers. The one suspect who had a rifle was fatally wounded whilst the second managed to evade arrest. A backpack with two rhino horns was recovered next to the body of the suspect as well as a high calibre rifle and poaching equipment. A carcass of a male black rhino was found nearby, indicating that the horns were hacked from this particular animal.

Meanwhile the Skukuza Regional Court sentenced Simon Lubisi to an effective 19 years in custody for killing and dehorning a rhino. Lubisi was arrested in the Crocodile Bridge Section together with three co-accused while busy dehorning a rhino. One suspect was fatally wounded when he shot at rangers and the three accused were apprehended and granted bail upon their appearance before a Magistrate. They all absconded but fortunately Lubisi was arrested again in the Park and stood trial, resulting in the conviction and sentencing on 14 October, SANParks said.

The Managing Executive of the KNP, Gareth Coleman, congratulated the anti-poaching teams for their weekend success and the prosecuting team on the conviction and sentencing of Lubisi. “We are saddened to have lost a rhino over the weekend but are encouraged by the brave actions of our multi- disciplinary anti-poaching teams who successfully took out two rifles from the system and apprehended suspects who are now in custody. We also appreciate the heavy sentences that the Skukuza Regional court have been handing down recently, it gives motivation to all those who work tirelessly to arrest the suspects found in the park. The kingpins are still out there and we hope they get arrested soon to face the might of the law for their criminality,” said Coleman.

Between July and the end of September, SANParks reported an increase of 29.41% in the number of poachers arrested (22) as compared to (17) for the same period in 2020. There has been an increase of 85.71% in the number of poacher firearms recovered (13) as compared to (7) for the same period in 2020.

“The KNP Management is confident of getting on top of the situation with all the security updates that have been put into commission,” SANParks said.