Ten suspected poachers have been apprehended in the Kruger National Park (KNP) in the last week, but a ranger has been shot and killed in an accidental shooting.
SANParks on 21 March said the arrests took place over a two day period, starting with three suspected poachers being apprehended by rangers on 19 March, with the assistance of the canine unit in Pretoriuskop. A .458 rifle with a silencer, ammunition, an axe, a fresh set of rhino horns and other poaching equipment was recovered.
Subsequently rangers apprehended one suspected poacher in Stolznek while his accomplice escaped, but a .458 rifle with a silencer, ammunition and other poaching equipment was confiscated.
SANParks said four suspected poachers were also arrested and two rhino horns seized outside the park in an operation that saw the support of the South African Police Service’s National Intervention Unit (NIU). The suspects were in possession of poaching equipment, ammunition and a heavy calibre rifle. Lastly, Crocodile Bridge rangers conducting a follow up operation managed to arrest a suspected poacher in possession of a heavy calibre rifle and ammunition.
In spite of the recent successes, SANParks lost a ranger on 20 March in an accidental shooting. The incident happened at Lower Sabie in the KNP, where the field ranger was based. According to the Lowvelder, a member of the SAPS was holding a poacher’s rifle that had just been confiscated when it went off. The bullet ricocheted off the floor and hit ranger George Mdaka. Although airlifted to hospital in Nelspruit, he died shortly after arrival.
The Chief Executive Officer of SANParks, Fundisile Mketeni, said “we are saddened by the death of one of our hard working colleagues and pass our sincerest condolences to his family and his associates, this is a big blow to the Rangers Corps, the SANParks family and the anti-poaching campaign, however we will continue where he left off to ensure the safety of our natural assets”.
“We are proud of the work that is being done by our colleagues in the field, this shows the commitment and dedication to their task, we are also grateful that most come back safe…we will continue where our colleagues who have succumbed to their injuries in the line of duty have left off. To the poachers, be warned, we have eyes all over the park and we will catch you and take your freedom away” Mketeni said.