Thirty-tow rhinos have been poached so far in 2013. Picture: Gallo Images
Nine men appeared before the Skukuza Periodical Magistrate’s Court in Mpumalanga in two separate cases of suspected rhino poaching on Wednesday.
In the first case, a Mozambican trio, Joseph Lamula, 26, Ernesto Malaze, 26 and Pedro Sambo, 21, were charged with alleged rhino poaching, illegal possession of firearms and violating SA’s immigration laws.
Six more suspected rhino poachers, Antonio Noalawini, 21, Lucky Nkuna, 39, Antonio Zitha, 28, Gonzalvez Malapi, 39, Selby Mokoena, 35, and Mario Sibuya, 39, were also subjected to similar charges.
Skukuza police spokesperson Johannes Coetzer said: “Both cases will be heard again on February 6. All nine were remanded in custody. They were not granted bail because they are undocumented Mozambicans.”
The two groups of suspected poachers were nabbed by a Phalaborwa Special Operations team with the assistance of Shingwedzi Rangers on January 18 and 19, the SA National Parks said.
“A 375 high caliber hunting rifle and poaching equipment were recovered. We are elated that during one of our toughest weekends weather-wise, we were still able to execute our rhino poaching offensive and emerge victorious,” Sanparks spokesperson Wanda Mkutshulwa said earlier.
The nine had attempted to take advantage of the chaos caused by torrential rains that destroyed over 122 houses and swept away roads and bridges in the Limpopo and Mpumalanga areas this week.
The environmental department on Wednesday released the latest rhino poaching figures.
“The latest rhino poaching statistics show that 32 rhinos have been poached in SA since the beginning of the year. This brings to 18 the number of rhino poached in the Kruger National Park for their horns. Six rhino were poached in North West and five in KwaZulu-Natal since the start of the year,” said the statistical release.