Via Ed Huydic
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife has made a sensational breakthrough in their quest to track down and capture the rhino poaching syndicates that have taken such a serious toll on these animals of late.
Working day and night over a four- day period last week, Ezemvelo’s Rhino Intervention Co-Ordinator Jabulane Ngubane yesterday announced that four suspected poachers have been arrested after entering Ndumo Game Reserve on Wednesday evening last week.
In the process a .458 heavy calibre rifle with a silencer has been confiscated. Initial findings suggest this to be the same weapon used in many of the recent poaching incidents at Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Ndumo Game Reserve.
“I cannot verify this until ballistic tests are completed but many of us are convinced we have got the ‘smoking-gun’. In any case I can’t tell you how rewarding this capture is. It’s huge. We’ve learnt many things from them already, one being that this rifle is actually hired out amongst other syndicates. We’ve also established that this gun is owned by a Mozambican national living in Maputo.”
Ngubane said he could not give out too much more information but the suspected poachers had revealed the identity of other poaching syndicates as well as other “critical” information: “I would be disappointed if this breakthrough is not followed up with new arrests soon”.
Ezemvelo’s CEO Dr Bandile Mkhize was thrilled and even emotional with the breakthrough.
“Beyond the headlines, people just don’t recognise how hard we are working to try and stamp out this horror. It takes time and infinite patience to follow up leads. I am over the moon with this news,” he said.
Ngubane said following strong intelligence tip-offs earlier last week, he assembled a 15-strong anti-poaching unit from a number of Ezemvelo’s reserves and combined these with a select four-man group from the SAPS’s Organised Crime Unit. They headed to Ndumo Game Reserve last Wednesday where intelligence said they would be entering the reserve on Wednesday afternoon.
All four were detected on Wednesday evening but nightfall meant they had to wait until the following morning to continue the chase. Three of the suspected poachers were seen leaving the reserve’s southern boundary. One was caught immediately while two others escaped. The first suspected poacher arrested said the fourth one had left the group overnight to attend a court case in Ingwavuma.
Working throughout the day, the rangers followed the spoor of the two escaped suspected poachers. Having caught up with them they hid and waited near a road in the Ziphosheni area outside Ndumo. The two were picked up by a vehicle and the Ezemvelo team chased them and pulled the car over.
The driver and two suspected poachers were arrested. Inside the vehicle was found the .458 heavy calibre hunting rifle with two rounds inside, along with a silencer.
They soon established the identity and whereabouts of the one suspected poacher who had to attend his court hearing. He was subsequently found and arrested, too.
Ngubane added that these latest four suspected poachers brought the total number of poachers arrested during 2012 to 29.