Fifteen alleged rhino poachers have been arrested in the past week and 365 poachers have been convicted in the first half of this year, the national joint operational and intelligence structure of the South African Police Service (Natjoints) said on Sunday.
The Natjoints’ Operation Rhino Nine task team responsible for preventing, combatting, and investigating rhino poaching continued to make notable strides against rhino poaching, SAPS spokesman Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said.
“This after 365 rhino poachers were convicted in six months and an additional 15 suspects, aged between 33 and 50 years, were arrested in the past week during intelligence-driven operations in Mpumalanga. Four unlicensed firearms and ammunition were seized during the arrests.”
Between January and June 2018, the Rhino Nine task team secured various convictions, the maximum nine years imprisonment and the least three months imprisonment with the option of paying a R1500 fine, he said.
Of the hundreds of suspects arrested, 165 remained in custody while facing court processes, six were deported to their native countries, 11 received fines, and 57 were serving their various jail terms. These convictions were evidence of the commitment of law enforcement agencies and game reserve parks to preserve endangered species for future generations.
“The arrested suspects have since appeared in various courts on charges of unlawful possession of firearm/s, unlawful possession of ammunition, possession of dangerous weapon/s, trespassing, hunting of protected animals, kidnapping, assault, possession of the remains of a wild animal, possession of suspected stolen property, and being in the country illegally or without proper documentation. Axes, tog bags, cellphones, and other incriminating evidence were also seized during the arrests,” Naidoo said.
The Rhino Nine task team is a multidisciplinary team operating in Mpumalanga and comprising of various government departments, including members from various disciplines in the SAPS, customs and excise, the South African National Defence Force, as well as Ezemvelo and SANParks game rangers.
“The strategies that we have put in place in the fight against rhino poaching are significantly reducing the chances of smugglers operating at our ports of entry in our national parks. These arrests should serve as a warning and deterrent to other potential poachers.”
Community support and assistance was welcomed in the fight against poaching. Poachers and smugglers were warned that over and above facing criminal prosecution their ill-gotten gains would be confiscated in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.
“We urge the people of South Africa to continue supporting the police in its efforts to bring down the scourge of crime because together we can do more. Anyone with information related to rhino poaching may contact the nearest police station or SAPS Crime Stop number 08600-10111,” Naidoo said.
– African News Agency (ANA)