Rhino Action Group Effort
Rhinos lost to poaching
2013 : 1004
2016 : 1054
2014 : 1215
2017 : 1028
2015 : 1175
2018 : ?
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They are, according to the chairman of the Private Rhino Owners’ Association, Pelham Jones, the last of the syndicate operating in the area, near Assen.

He said police officers acting on a tip-off waited for the suspects. At 12.38am on Tuesday they were spotted on an isolated road near an area known to hold rhinos, and an attempt was made to arrest them.

Jones said one of the men pulled out a handgun and fired at the police.

“After a very aggressive and short shootout, the suspect was injured three times.”

The cops “immobilised” the suspects’ vehicle and arrested five men, one of whom was apparently the head of the syndicate.

They discovered a .458-calibre rifle, a firearm used to hunt large game. Also in the vehicle were 14 rounds of solid .458-calibre ammunition.

This solid ammunition, said Jones, was often preferred when shooting animals like elephants and rhinos. A 9mm handgun was also found.

The police confirmed Tuesday’s operation but did not want to reveal further details.

The five suspects, aged between 43 and 59, are to appear in the Brits Magistrate’s Court on charges of attempted murder and unlawful possession of a firearm.

Of the five, one is a Motswana and two are Mozambicans. The remaining two are South Africans.

Jones said Tuesday’s arrests brought the number of arrests over the past month to 20, with six firearms seized and three rhino horns discovered.

“We are getting to a point where we are becoming more proactive than reactive in the fight against rhino poaching,” he said.

On February 3, three suspected poachers who had broken away from the main syndicate were arrested. They were about to enter a property, allegedly to poach rhinos.

Two of them – Mozambicans – are still in jail. The third, a South African, was released on R5 000 bail.

SA National Parks (SANParks) said on Tuesday that 52 rhinos had been poached this year.

The worst-hit areas were the Kruger National Park, with 26 rhinos killed, and Limpopo with 13.

SANParks claimed at least 30 arrests had been made nationwide.

“It is worrying that we are still losing such a high number of rhinos throughout the country.

“The most encouraging area in this whole saga is the increasing number of arrests and the steeper sentences that are being imposed on convicted criminals,” said SANParks CEO Dr David Mabunda.

The five suspects, aged between 43 and 59, are to appear in the Brits Magistrate’s Court on charges of attempted murder and unlawful possession of a firearm.

Of the five, one is a Motswana and two are Mozambicans. The remaining two are South Africans.

Jones said Tuesday’s operation brought the number of arrests over the past month to 20, with six firearms seized and three rhino horns discovered.

“We are getting to the point where we are becoming more proactive than reactive in the fight against rhino poaching,” he added.

On February 3, three suspected poachers who had broken away from the main syndicate were arrested. They were about to enter a property, allegedly to poach rhinos, when they were nabbed.

Of the February 3 arrests, the two Mozambicans are still in jail. The third, a South African, was released on R5 000 bail. - The Star
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