Full moon poacher crackdown across SA nets 6 suspects

2016-06-23 10:34 - Louzel Lombard
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Cape Town - While the incredible full moon is a welcomed natural phenomenon for most South Africans, poacher fighting rangers dread the occurrence - and for good reason. 

Two poachers in the Kruger National Park were caught red-handed on Wednesday, 22 June, by teams from the protection unit of the KNP. 

One of the suspected criminals was shot and apprehended by officials, while the other jumped into the Nsikazi River and drowned.

This comes one day after two official Kruger Rangers were also arrested for alleged poaching on Monday, 20 June. 

According to SANParks CEO Fundisile Mketeni, the arrest of these two field rangers at Nwanedzi Ranger Section of the Kruger National Park (KNP) was for the alleged involvement in rhino poaching activities.

“The arrest of the two field rangers was the culmination of an extensive follow-up operation conducted after a poached rhino carcass, with horns removed, was located by the Nwanedzi rangers on 16 June," Mketeni said in an official release. 

This rings true to KNP core command ranger Ken Maggs' shock-statement, in which he said 'not a week goes by where poacher rangers haven't had physical contact and gunfire with poachers...'

WATCH: 11 Facts about what Kruger's Rhino rangers face will leave you cold

During the full moon, when natural night light makes the illegal activity easier, the situation worsens. But luckily, crime fighters know this. 

The South African Police Service (SAPS) said in a statement on Monday that it made a major breakthrough when it arrested three men during Operation Full Moon, focused mainly on curbing rhino poaching incidents in the Eastern Cape. 

The men were apparently connected to 10 poaching incidents in KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga.

The following items were recovered during the arrest, SAPS said: 

• One 72 cm rhino horn which had been freshly harvested, estimated at approximately R1.2 million

• One darting rifle

• Saws and knives

• Drugs used to dart animals

• Various darts and percussion caps

• A variety of camping gear and rations

• Several cellphones

• Two rental vehicles rented by the suspects 

The three suspects appeared in the Grahamstown Magistrates Court. They were denied bail and will remain in custody until 22 July, pending further investigation. 

The red-handed poacher caught on Wednesday, plus the two Kruger Rangers which were arrested on Monday, will all face similar charges. 

In the meantime, Kruger National Park enthusiasts have praised the Ranger Corps and SAPS for their effectiveness in apprehending suspects. Rina de Freitas posted to the official SANParks - Kruger National Park Facebook page saying, "Well done Rangers. Please find those who orchestrate the poaching. They are the real culprits. Without their money and guns, poaching can stop..."

Maureen Coetzee Perks also posted, "Well done and thank you for your hard work and dedication". 

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