A suspected rhino and lion poaching operation has been dismantled with the arrest of 27 people in operations carried out in Hluhluwe‚ Acornhoek and Phalaborwa.
The South African Police Service’s National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure said on Sunday that the suspects were arrested over the past week.
“Remains of known endangered species were recovered‚” said Lieutenent Colonel Katlego Mogale.
A rhino horn was also seized‚ in addition to “three silencers‚ six unlicensed firearms‚ ammunition as well as other items that could have been used for the killing of wild animals“.
“Police have also opened an inquiry after bones of what is suspected to be a lion were discovered in Phalaborwa.”
Mogale said the arrests were a result of an intelligence led operation. The Rhino 9 Team‚ he said‚ comprises various government departments including members from various SAPS units‚ the Hawks‚ Customs and Excise‚ the South African National Defence Force‚ Ezemvelo and SANParks game rangers.
“Some of the suspects have appeared before various courts in the various provinces and their cases postponed for further investigations while they remain in custody.
“They face charges relating to immigration transgressions‚ murder‚ attempted murder‚ unlawful possession of firearm‚ unlawful possession of ammunition‚ possession of dangerous weapon/s‚ and trespassing.”
Eight of the suspects were wanted for murder and attempted murder in the Plessislaer policing precinct (KwaZulu-Natal). Mogale said they would appear in the Hluhluwe Magistrate’s Court soon for their formal bail applications.
“The arrest of these suspects should serve as warning and deterrent to other potential poachers that their chances of success in poaching are continuously being reduced with growing help from the communities‚” he said.
“Poachers are warned that over and above facing criminal prosecution‚ the law will come after their ill-gotten gains in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.”