South African National Parks (SANParks) has welcomed the successful conviction of three suspected rhino poachers who appeared in the Nelspruit Regional Court on March 14.
The recent conviction involved three Mozambican citizens who were arrested in October at the Crocodile Bridge Section of the Kruger National Park. The three suspects, Renaldo Franchesco Masiki, Joao Sendelani Malangute and Elvis Mdaka were found guilty of illegally hunting a rhino.
Masiki and Mdaka were further found guilty on charges of possession of illegal firearms and ammunition and were sentenced to an effective nine years’ imprisonment without an option of a fine. Malangute was sentenced to an effective five years behind bars without an option of a fine.
According to Wanda Mkutshulwa, Head of Communications at SANParks, the organisation is very pleased with this sentencing and hopes for even tougher sentences to be meted out to such criminals.
Mkutshulwa said Masiki and Mdaka were actually sentenced to four years’ imprisonment on each of the charges for possession of firearms and ammunition, but for the purpose of sentencing, the charges were combined to four years.
She said the last time a harsh sentence had been handed down was when a Vietnamese man was sentenced to 10 years in prison after been caught trying to smuggle 18kg of rhino horns from OR Tambo International Airport in July last year.
South Africa has lost 71 rhinos so far this year, with 46 in the Kruger National Park, nine in Limpopo, North West, Mpumalanga and Western Cape each losing one rhino, and KwaZulu Natal losing six. To date 64 suspected rhino poachers have been arrested.