Thirty years jail for Kruger rhino poacher

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A convicted poacher will spend the next 30 years behind bars, the regional court in Skukuza has ruled.

Sidney Sibuyi was, according to a SANParks statement, one of three armed men who illegally entered the Kruger National Park on 26 September 2020 to “hunt rhino”.

“Shots were heard by field rangers attached to Kruger’s Stolznek section who reacted and gave chase. Sibuyi was arrested but his two accomplices managed to evade arrest and are still at large. A bag containing five fresh rhino horns and a heavy calibre rifle silencer were recovered close to the convicted poacher,” the statement continues, adding: “the rifle and other poaching equipment were not found on him, indicating the escapees had those in their possession”.

Sibuyi appeared in the Skukuza court in September – three days short of three years – after he was arrested and pleaded guilty to five charges, including three of “hunting rhinoceros” with another trespassing. Sentences will run concurrently with Sibuyi to serve an effective 30 years in jail.

The “heavy sentence” was welcomed by Kruger Managing Executive Oscar Mthimkhulu who hoped it sent “a strong message that wildlife crime is serious”.

“Our mandate is to conserve and preserve these magnificent creatures for future generations and for people to mercilessly slaughter three at a go indicates how callous these criminals are and they deserve these heavy sentences. Our enhanced security measures, dedicated rangers and police will ensure people pay the price when they get caught in [Kruger],” the statement has him saying.

In August, Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Minister Barbara Creecy said “poaching trends” for the first half of 2023 showed “a move away from Kruger to provincial and private reserves” with the iconic game reserve losing 42 rhino to poachers in the first six months of 2023.

KwaZulu-Natal is seemingly now the venue of choice for rhino poachers in South Africa, with the province losing 143 of the Big Five species in the first six months of the year.

In total, South Africa lost 231 rhino to poachers between January and the end of June, down by 28 (11%) on the corresponding period last year.