National 29.7.2016 02:11 pm

Update: ‘Poaching’ KNP ranger was highly regarded

Rodney Landela was one of the bright stars in the programmes of the KNP to reintroduce rhinos to other parks. He was also working on the rhino orphans programme where Kruger orphans were resettled with rhino cows who 'adopted' them. Photo: Lowvelder

Rodney Landela was one of the bright stars in the programmes of the KNP to reintroduce rhinos to other parks. He was also working on the rhino orphans programme where Kruger orphans were resettled with rhino cows who 'adopted' them. Photo: Lowvelder

Rodney Landela, who has been in the KNP’s service for 15 years, has received several KNP Achievement Awards.

An award-winning Kruger National Park (KNP) regional ranger, Rodney Landela, and a veterinarian technician of the Animal Health Directorate, Kenneth Motshotso, were arrested on Wednesday in the KNP for rhino-poaching-related offences, the Lowvelder reports.

On Thursday they were being detained at Skukuza Police Station. Both appeared in the Bushbuckridge Magistrates’ Court yesterday. They will be detained for seven days before they will be allowed to apply for bail.

Due to the seriousness of the crime, the case is being investigated by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate.

Landela, who has been in the KNP’s service for 15 years, has received several KNP Achievement Awards, including an Individual Achievement Award in 2012. He is also highly regarded by the Game Rangers Association of which he is an executive member. He started out as a general worker in the KNP.

He was also recently trained to pilot a drone during anti-poaching operations.

He was in charge of the Mopani North Region of the KNP.

SANParks rangers were on a normal patrol in the Satara area when they heard three gunshots close to Kingfisherspruit at 1pm on Wednesday. They rushed in the direction of the shots to investigate.

As they approached they saw two men, one in a green ranger uniform and the other one in khaki clothes, running towards a bakkie which was parked nearby.

They got into the bakkie and sped off. The rangers came across the carcass of a white rhino that was obviously poached just a few minutes before. The rangers gave chase and called for assistance. The SANParks chopper and other rangers rushed to the scene.

The suspects’ bakkie was cut off by another group of rangers at Satara who rushed to assist in the pursuit. They were stopped. Landela gave orders to Motshotso to drive away while he stayed behind. He drove away, but came back after a while. That is when the rangers became suspicious and searched the bakkie.

Blood-covered shoes were recovered from the bakkie. Other rangers were sent to the spot where Motshotso went with the bakkie. Here they found a high-calibre hunting rifle and two horns. These were most probably dropped by Motshotso from the bakkie in the veld when he drove away.

The chief executive officer of SANParks, Fundisile Mketeni, reacted to the news. “It is indeed sad and horrible to hear that one of our own has been arrested for rhino poaching-related activities. These are the men who are tasked with leading the anti-poaching operations in the park. We, however, applaud our field rangers who effected the arrest, as difficult as it was for them to arrest their superior.

“This is evidence of the commitment of our employees to the fight against poaching where ‘no favour nor fear’ is their guiding principle in the war against this scourge. We are confident that, with this calibre of men and women in our parks, we will win this fight,” he said.

Caxton News Service

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