The tide may be turning as South Africa’s Police Service (SAPS) gets serious about rhino poaching – a 30-year-old man has been sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for rhino poaching related crimes; and another man has been arrested at OR Tambo International Airport in possession of five rhino horns!
SAPS announced in a media statement today, Monday, that on 7 September 2017, Mapoyisa Mahlauli was sentenced to an effective 20 years imprisonment after he was found guilty in the Skukuza Regional court for various rhino-poaching related crimes.
“This is but one of the sentences of direct imprisonment in the ongoing war against endangered species and wildlife crimes in the country,” said the statement. “The sentence comes after intensive and thorough investigations by the members of the Endangered Species Unit as well as the Skukuza Stock Theft Unit.”
Mahlauli was arrested on 17 March 2016, in the Satara Section of the Kruger National Park. Field rangers were on routine patrol when they were alerted to gunshots. They investigated and discovered a white rhinoceros cow had been shot dead and her horns sawn off.
The field rangers followed the tracks of the suspects. When they found the poachers, a shootout ensued resulting in Mapoyisa being arrested while his accomplice managed to evade arrest. A large calibre hunting rifle, ammunition, an axe and a fresh set of rhinoceros horns were recovered from the scene.
Mahlauli was subsequently charged, convicted and sentenced.
When broken down, his sentences are – two years for trespassing in the Kruger National Park, 10 years imprisonment for Illegal hunting of rhino, eight years imprisonment for the possession of a firearm with intent to commit a crime, three years imprisonment for possession of an unlicensed firearm.
Mahlauli will serve an effective 20 years in prison as some sentences will run concurrently with others.
SAPS said it welcomes this sentencing as “we believe that this will send a strong message to other potential rhino poachers about the consequences of their actions if caught”.
Rhino Horn Smuggler Arrested at OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg
The strong message was further driven home by the arrest on Friday 8 September 2017 of a man found in possession of five rhino horns in his luggage at OR Tambo International Airport.
Customs officers followed up on information around a suspicious bag that was bound for Hong Kong.
SAPS said today that the identified bag and the owner were intercepted at the boarding gate.
“The passenger was escorted to the Customs search area where the bag was put through the scanner and images resembling rhino horns could be seen amongst the contents,” said SAPS. “A physical search of the bag was conducted and five rhino horns were found wrapped in foil. The suspect was arrested.”
The horns were handed over to the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (HAWKS) for further investigation.
In a separate incident at OR Tambo Airport this weekend, a Brazilian passenger on-board a flight from Sao Paolo was arrested with suspected cocaine which could be worth R5-million. A further search of the plane found two socks containing ‘cocaine bullets’ in different toilets. No arrests have been made with regards to these drugs. In late August a SAPS officer, Angela Maluleke (33), was arrested for drug possession (six bricks of cocaine) at São Paulo’s international airport in Brazil.
SAPS said today that the team’s integrated effort and commitment is yielding great successes, both in the prevention as well as the combatting of crime in and around the airport.