South African National Parks has arrested four suspected poachers in the Kruger National Park (KNP), with another dying during a gunfight with rangers.
“On 30 May, rangers with K9 support responded to a visual of two poachers [in the Pretoriuskop Section]”, said KNP spokesman Ike Phaahla in a statement.
“The Air-wing unit was called in to support the ground teams in pursuit and soon thereafter two suspects were arrested without incident.”
The following day, in the Houtboschrand section, three tracks of suspected poachers were picked up by Rangers [with K9 support] who began following the tracks.
“They made contact with three suspects and during the contact, one suspect was fatally wounded,” said Phaahla.
“A lengthy follow-up ensued with the support of the Air-wing unit, making use of a helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft as well as support from additional line K9s and free-running hounds. This led to the eventual apprehension of the remaining two suspects.”
Phaahla noted during both operations in the south of the park, a high-calibre hunting rifle, ammunition and poaching equipment were seized.
“All suspects were handed over to the South African Police Service for further handling and the suspects will appear in court in due course,” Phaahla said.
KNP head ranger Cathy Dreyer congratulated all those who were involved in the operations.
“We are proud of the teamwork and dedication of our rangers corp, our aviators and the K9 units, who execute our anti-poaching efforts in extremely difficult conditions,” said Dreyer.
“We are aware that poachers are currently targeting weekends for their misdeeds in the mistaken belief that rangers do not work during that time.”
According to Environment,Forestry, and Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy in February, the KNP experienced 1573 poacher activities during 2020 and a decrease of 21.9% in comparison to the number in 2019 (2 014).
“During 2020, 247 rhino were poached for their horns in South African National Parks, 245 in Kruger National Park and two in Marakele National Park,” Creecy said at the time.