The arrest of a policeman based at Skukuza in Kruger National Park in connection with allegations of poaching has been noted by Parliament’s Police Portfolio Committee with a call for vetting of all police officers near national parks.
Committee chair Francois Beukman said the arrest of 12 suspected rhino poachers in the iconic game reserve highlighted the work done by all involved in the ongoing battle against rhino poaching and other wildlife crimes.
“The committee is concerned that among those arrests is a police officer based at Skukuza Police Station. This points to the presence of corrupt elements among the police which undermines the rule of law they are mandated to uphold.”
The committee has called for lifestyle audits and vetting of all police officers based in or near national parks to help rid the SA Police Service (SAPS) of corrupt elements.
Kruger rangers last Friday arrested three suspects in possession of a heavy calibre hunting rifle, ammunition, poaching equipment and a fresh set of rhino horns. One suspect has been identified as a recently retired Frelimo commander. He was apparently in full camouflage uniform when arrested.
Saturday saw three more arrests of suspected rhino poachers following a full day of tracking by rangers and elements of Kruger’s K9 team. Ammunition, poaching equipment and a heavy calibre hunting rifle were taken from the suspects. Also on Saturday, Kruger rangers arrested two more suspects with a third fatally wounded during a firefight.
Sunday was also a busy day for the park’s rangers and dedicated counter-poaching team with a contact leaving a suspected poacher dead and another arrested. A second contact with three suspected poachers left one fatally wounded with the other two managing to escape. Hunting rifles, poaching equipment, ammunition and a pair of rhino horn was recovered after the contacts.
The police officer was arrested on suspicion of involvement with rhino poaching and is in custody.
Rhino poaching in Kruger has declined by 20% with 504 killed by poachers for their horn last year. This is markedly down from the 662 kills reported in 2016. At the same time elephant poaching is on the rise with the park losing 67 to high-powered poachers’ rifles last year compared to 46 the year before.