Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Five held for rhino killing
05 October 2010, 00:10
By Tony Carnie
Police and wildlife officials have made another breakthrough into the recent spate of rhino horn poaching by arresting five men from the Ulundi area in KwaZulu-Natal.
The five, whose names have not been released, are thought to have been supplying a horn dealer in the Joburg area.
They have been linked to a number of rhino killings in the Ophathe Game Reserve, near Ulundi, and ballistic experts are examining a number of confiscated firearms to see if they can be linked to other killings in KZN.
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife spokesman Jeff Gaisford said the five were
arrested on Sunday after months of investigation by Ezemvelo and SAPS officials.
One of the men appeared in court yesterday and the others would appear today in the Ulundi Magistrate’s Court.
Gaisford said the investigators confiscated six firearms – a .303 rifle fitted with a telescopic sight, two shotguns, two .22 rifles and a 9mm pistol.
Ophathe Game Reserve has been plagued by a spate of rhino poaching over the past two years. Last year, at least 11 rhino were killed. Another five had been shot and dehorned at Ophathe this year, including three animals in the past two weeks.
Another two dehorned rhinos were found in the Hlhuluwe-Imfolozi Park over the same period, bringing the total in KZN to at least 17 this year. Nationwide, more than 213 rhino have poached this year.
Ezemvelo chief executive Bandile Mkhize hailed the arrests as “a major breakthrough” and thanked staff for their role. “The net is closing on rhino poachers and I would like to reiterate the warning I have given previously to those who would plunder our wildlife heritage: you do so at your peril,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Freedom Front Plus has urged the Chinese and Vietnamese ambassadors to clearly state their position on the rhino poaching problem.
“Rhinos are increasingly being poached and it is generally well-known that rhino horns are in great demand in China, Vietnam and other Asian markets for the so-called medicinal value thereof,” said Jaco Mulder, spokesman on environmental affairs.
While the media focus was on the recent arrest of some of the alleged king-pins in South Africa, there should be more attention on resolving market demand for rhino horns in the Far East. Countries where large amounts of rhino horns were traded on the black market should reveal what measures they were taking to stop the illegal trade. - The Mercury
Comments by Sonny
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