A multidisciplinary rhino poaching task team has arrested 50 suspects, recovered 13 rhino horns, two elephant tusks and 19 hunting rifles during ongoing police operations in various parts of the country over the past two months, police said on Wednesday.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo said the team also managed to recovered 15 silencers, two pistols, one shotgun and 155 rounds of ammunition, among various other items of evidential value, during the operations.
The suspects were aged between 24 and 58 years.
“As per standard procedure, the rifles and pistols were sent to the SAPS’s Forensic Science Laboratory in Pretoria for ballistic testing, primarily to determine if they had been used to commit other crimes,” said Naidoo.
“The suspects appeared in various courts across the three provinces for charges ranging from the possession of unlicensed firearms, conspiracy to commit crime, the possession of counterfeit goods, illegal hunting, the possession of rhino horns, the possession of protected endangered species and the possession of elephant tasks.”
Meanwhile, during another operation on Monday, police in Hoedspruit outside Phalaborwa in Limpopo arrested three members of a suspected cross-border rhino poaching syndicate linked to two cases of rhino poaching in the Hoedspruit policing area.
“This is yet another major breakthrough in the fight against rhino poaching after these suspects were arrested earlier in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape,” Naidoo said.
He said that Jabulani Ndlovu, 39, Forget Ndlovu and Skhumbuzo Ndlovu, both aged 37, were found in the possession of a firearm, which connected them to more than 60 cases of rhino poaching countrywide.
“Two of these cases were found to be committed in Hoedspruit.”
The men appeared in the Hoedspruit Magistrate’s Court and their cases were remanded to June 12, and they were all denied bail.
“This is a milestone achievement for the police and other role players in the fight against rhino poaching, especially in Limpopo. Anyone who has information on the people involved in these crimes may contact their nearest police station or the Crime Stop number,” Naidoo said.