Rhino poachers Kruger National Park sentenced
Rhino poachers from the Kruger National Park sentenced. Photo: IanZA / Pixabay

Two convicted rhino poachers have been handed lengthy jail terms by the Skukuza Regional court. The two men from Mozambique were arrested in Satara section of the Kruger National Park (KNP) on 22 May 2019 by Rangers.

The rangers had been alerted to an incident by the sound of shots being fired. They responded and found two carcasses of rhino, with their horns still intact. Their subsequent search resulted in the arrest of the two men who were still close to the scene. Poaching equipment – including a high powered rifle – was recovered and linked to the killing of the rhinos.

Americo Mathonsi (59) and his accomplice, Michael Chauke (57) were found guilty of trespassing in a National Park, killing of rhinos which are protected species, possession of an illegal firearm, ammunition, contravention of the immigration act and possession of dangerous weapons.

They were each sentenced to a total of twenty three years in prison. South African National Parks (SANParks) welcomed the lengthy sentences.

Gareth Coleman, outgoing Managing Executive of the KNP commended the team which made the arrests, saying: “We welcome the resumption of trials in Skukuza after the court experienced technical problems with their recording equipment, and congratulate the prosecution for presenting a compelling case to the court which led to the two convictions and sentencing.

“Our continued collaboration with the SAPS and NPA is bearing results with the sentences that have been meted out by the court. There is still more to be done, especially outside the park to arrest those responsible for destroying our natural heritage. Our anti- poaching teams will be encouraged by these sentences which prove that their efforts are not in vain.”

The Skukuza Regional court is expected to finalise several high profile cases this year including that of former KNP Regional Ranger Rodney Landela whose trial is set for June 2022.