Members of the national joint operational and intelligence structure Rhino 9 team have arrested 27 alleged wildlife poachers during the week, the South African Police Service (SAPS) said.
The Rhino 9 team continued to make significant strides in reducing the number of poaching incidents related to endangered species and also enhancing the detection rate of those committing these crimes, Lt-Col Katlego Mogale said.
“This after 27 suspects, including eight who were wanted for murder and attempted murder in the Plessislaer policing precinct [near Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal], were arrested over the past week and remains of known endangered species were recovered as well as six unlicensed firearms.”
The 27 suspects were arrested during intelligence-driven operations in Hluhluwe in Northern KwaZulu-Natal, Acornhoek in Mpumalanga, and Phalaborwa in Limpopo. During the arrests the team seized a rhino horn, three firearm silencers, six unlicensed firearms and ammunition, and other items that could have been used for killing wild animals, Mogale said.
The Rhino 9 Team was comprised of various government departments, including members of various disciplines of the SAPS, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks), Customs and Excise, the South African National Defence Force, Ezemvelo, and South African National Parks (SANParks) game rangers.
“Some of the suspects have appeared before various courts in the various provinces and their cases [were] postponed for further investigations while they remain in custody. They face charges relating to immigration transgressions, murder, attempted murder, unlawful possession of firearms, unlawful possession of ammunition, possession of dangerous weapon/s, and trespassing. Police have also opened an inquiry after bones of what is suspected to be a lion were discovered in Phalaborwa,” Mogale said.
The murder and attempted murder suspects would appear in the Hluhluwe Magistrate’s Court again on the September 20 for a formal bail application.
The arrest of these suspects should serve as a warning and deterrent to other potential poachers that their chances of success in poaching were continuously being reduced with the growing help from communities.
“Poachers are warned that over and above facing criminal prosecution, the law will come after their ill-gotten gains in terms of the POCA (Prevention of Organised Crime Act,” Mogale said.