The South African National Parks (SANParks) authority has welcomed the jail terms handed down by the Skukuza Regional Court to two convicted rhino poachers.
The two men from Mozambique were arrested in the Satara section of the Kruger National Park (KNP) on 22 May 2019 by Rangers who responded to the sound of shots being fired. Upon investigation, they found two rhino carcasses with their horns still intact. A resultant search culminated in the arrest of the two men close to the scene where the carcases were found, and poaching equipment including a high powered rifle were recovered and linked to the killing of the rhinos.
Fifty-nine year old Americo Mathonsi and his 57 year old accomplice, Michael Chauke, were found guilty of trespassing in a National Park, killing of rhinos – which are a protected species – possession of illegal firearm, ammunition, contravention of the immigration act and possession of dangerous weapons. They were each sentenced to a total of 23 years in prison.
Gareth Coleman, the Managing Executive of the KNP, commended the team that made the arrests and stated: “We welcome the resumption of trials in Skukuza after the court experienced technical problems with their recording equipment and congratulate the prosecution for presenting a compelling case to the court which led to the two convictions and sentencing. Our continued collaboration with the South African Police Service and National Prosecuting Authority is bearing results with the sentences that have been meted out by the court. There is still more to be done, especially outside the park to arrest those responsible for destroying our natural heritage. Our anti- poaching teams will be encouraged by these sentences which prove that their efforts are not in vain,” concluded Coleman.
The Skukuza Regional Court is expected to finalise several high profile cases this year including that of former KNP Regional Ranger Rodney Landela, whose trial is set for June 2022.