South African National Parks (SANParks) announced on Monday that 23 suspected rhino poachers had been arrested in the Kruger National Park (KNP) since July.
SANParks said the spate of arrests were made after Thursday, 19 July, the day the Rangers Corps lost a colleague who was shot dead while arresting suspected poachers.
Respect Mathebula became the second ranger casualty since 1958 involving poacher contact in the KNP.
KNP managing executive Glenn Phillips commended the work of the rangers, saying they were resilient in the aftermath of the tragic loss of a colleague: “The arrests are a sign that the spirit of respect is being honoured by the Rangers Corps. Further to this, the fact that no poachers were wounded or killed in these contacts is a clear demonstration of the professionalism and discipline that embodies our Ranger Corps.”
“There has been relentless poacher activity since his passing, with 156 activities reported, and that includes contacts. We are still making a plea to our neighbouring communities to help us in this fight by exposing those who are exploiting their children, husbands and relatives to illegally hunt rhino. These people do not have the welfare of the communities at heart, but are criminals without a conscience, and they need to be put behind bars for a long time for their criminal acts,” Phillips said.
SANParks said the 23 suspects were in possession of 10 high-calibre rifles and poaching equipment, and would be facing charges related to poaching and possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition.