Farmer's Weekly (South Africa)

Hefty prison sentences for rhino horn poachers

- – Annelie Coleman

The South African Police Service (SAPS) in Mpumalanga welcomed prison sentences of between 25 years and 33 years handed down by the Skukuza Regional Court to three poachers last month.

Three Mozambican citizens, Lowrene Makamu (28), George Muyanga (50) and Nuru Burros (24), were sentenced following an incident in July 2022 in which they were found in possession of six rhino horns, among other items, near the Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp in Kruger National Park.

According to a statement from the SAPS, field rangers received a report from tourists about gunshots heard in the vicinity of the Afsaal picnic spot on 1 July 2022.

The section ranger activated his team with the help of a helicopter. A tracker dog was also brought in to assist in tracing the suspects.

The investigat­ors found fresh rhino carcasses as well as fresh human footprints. The poachers were spotted soon afterwards and arrested.

They were found in possession of a .375 hunting rifle, one silencer, three front horns and three rear horns, as well as three hunting knives. Members from Skukuza SAPS were informed about the incident and upon arrival all three suspects were arrested and charged.

Makamu and Burros, as first offenders, were effectivel­y sent to prison for 25 years. Muyanga, as a repeat offender, was sentenced to 33 years in prison.

Dr Gerhard Verdoorn, operations and stewardshi­p manager at CropLife South Africa, welcomed the sentences and said they conveyed a strong message to other prospectiv­e poachers. He added that many species, such as the pangolin, rhino and a number of succulent species, were on the cusp of extinction in South Africa.

“Crime against the environmen­t, in any shape or form, should be considered as serious and anyone found guilty thereof should be dealt with accordingl­y. Crime against the environmen­t includes matters such as pollution, illegal dumping of hazardous materials, poaching, and smuggling of both animal and plant species. We cannot afford any leniency is this regard,” he told Farmer’s Weekly.

Lieutenant-General Semakaleng Daphney Manamela, provincial commission­er of the SAPS in Mpumalanga, expressed appreciati­on to South African National Parks field rangers and the teams that led the investigat­ion and prosecutio­n.

“We hope that the sentence will serve as a deterrent to others who might consider emulating the actions of the three accused,” she said.

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