Kruger ranger is first to be killed by suspected poachers in 50 years


Respect Mathebula, who was buried recently in Mpumalanga, was the first ranger to be killed by poachers in the Kruger National Park for more than 50 years.

The Game Rangers Association of Africa (GRAA), in a commemorative statement to mark World Ranger Day (July 31), noted “at least 55 rangers in Africa have been killed in the last 12 months”. According to the International Ranger Federation 105 game rangers were killed worldwide in the 12 month period ending July 2018.

The international body’s statistics show 269 rangers have died protecting “Africa’s wildlife and wild places” since 2012.

Mathebula died of gunshot wounds sustained in a confrontation with suspected poachers in the iconic game reserve which has over the past 10 years become a prime target for poachers seeking illegal rhino horn for the increasingly lucrative Fear Eastern market.

In her tribute to Mathebula, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said the work of a field ranger has become more diverse and complex “as these men and woman wake each day to lead the way in conserving our country’s natural wonders”.

Rangers, she said, were the front line whether they were battling wild fires or confronting poachers.
“The murder of one of our rangers is an act of aggression by unscrupulous individuals and gangs. His death at the hands of alleged rhino poachers is an indication of the severity of the threat our rangers are faced with a daily basis,” Molewa said.

She appealed to community members to honour the ranger and remember his untimely death by working with SANParks and government to preserve South Africa natural heritage.
“You can become directly involved in combatting wildlife crime, as Respect did, or you can assist in educating children or other members of your community, not only about the importance of wildlife in strengthening our country’s economy but also in conserving our biodiversity.”

GRAA said: “Rangers across the world are subject to an increasing risk of confronting life threatening encounters. They operate in extreme environments and in their efforts to protect our natural heritage face risks associated with dangerous wild animals, sickness, community backlash and the increasing threat of armed poachers and militia groups”.