Cape Town - Game rangers who work hand-in-hand with poachers are a huge challenge in the fight to protect SA's wildlife heritage, says SANParks.
South African National Parks (SANParks) managing executive, Glenn Phillips alleges some of the Park's rangers are working with poachers.
This follows the recent arrest of three men who were busted for rhino poaching at Kruger National Park. The three men, identified as Emmanuel Mdlhuli, Xongani Mathebula and Walter Mhangani were busted in the act of dehorning two of the three rhinos they had shot and killed - this after rangers were alerted by the sound of gunshots and rushed to the scene.
Philips says efforts to curb rhino poaching is hampered by game rangers who work hand-in-hand with the poachers.
He says he is aware of these alleged syndicates involving rangers in the Kruger National Park, and SANParks is collaborating with the police in order to bring these perpetrator to book.
“Unfortunately, like any other organisation, we have crooks," he says. “We will continue with ongoing investigations in the park because we cannot afford to have people working for us and being part of syndicates."
Although he does not allege that these three specific suspects had collaborated with Kruger staff‚ he suggests that other staff members were assisting poachers to gain entry to the park illegally.
SEE: Latest rhino stats shocking
Phillips says poachers have come up with creative ways in order to gain entry into the park and this includes pretending to be tourists.
“We also have situations where people drive in as tourists‚ but they are actually going to poach. We have to find a balance between creating a service attitude at the gate for tourists‚ [and facilitating effective security by the] police and the army‚” he says.
While the only way to way to root out this is by arresting the kingpins in these syndicates, Phillips expresses concern that it’s only the foot soldiers and low-level poachers who desperately need money that are being brought to book.
“This is an organised-crime situation‚” Phillips adds. “The people who have been arrested or killed are just foot soldiers‚ who have been sent in with a promise of easy money but [their arrest] doesn’t only impact on them it is also very difficult for their families.”
ALSO SEE: #ShockWildlifeTruth: Pregnant rhino and calf found dead at Pilanesberg National Park
Recently, the Minister of Environmental Affairs welcomed the sentencing of a Chinese national found guilty of smuggling rhino horn.
The 24-year-old woman pleaded guilty to charges of rhino horn smuggling in the Kempton Park Regional Court and was given a four-year sentence.
She was arrested at OR Tambo International Airport while en-route from Zambia to Hong Kong in China.
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