The Lowvelder reported recently on the court appearance of Rodney Landela (35), regional ranger of the Kruger National Park (KNP), and Kenneth Motshotsho (44) from the local office of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry an Fisheries.
The two men appeared in the Skukuza Regional Court this month on charges related to poaching a white rhino in the Kingfisherspruit area. Adv Ansie Venter prosecuted, with magistrate Dr Dries Lamprecht on the bench.
Sgt Lucky Ndlovu, a trained ranger and tracker with 25 years’ experience, testified for the state and explained how and where the ranger team was operating on 27 July 27 when they heard shots in Section 37 of the area. They noticed people walking, as well as a white bakkie driving away and found Landela, as well as Motshotsho driving around in a similar vehicle, in the vicinity.
Ndlovu testified that two of the rangers found a rhino carcass and that tracks were found in a firebreak, with footprints between the tracks and the carcass. When Landela and Motshotsho arrived at the scene later, Ndlovu realised that the footprints and tracks matched theirs and their vehicle’s and became concerned.
“I thought maybe they shot the rhino by accident,” an emotional Ndlovu testified. He said by the time a ranger from Satara, police and a team from the Environmental Crime Investigation unit, as well as the park’s helicopter arrived at the scene, Landela was pacing around, looking “unhappy, not as usual”.
When he went back to the area where he encountered Motshotsho, he noticed from the pattern of the tracks that a vehicle stopped along the way and started again, with footprints indicating that one person moved between the driver’s side, a back door and the veld.
He reported to the team at the carcass, upon which the police came to his aid. Following the footprints, they spotted goods which Ndlovu identified as “gifts to rangers”. He noticed again that the footprints matched those of Motshotho’s shoes.
He also noticed that Landela did not wear the same shoes as earlier any more.
The court will do a site visit on November 6 and the two accused will appear again on November 9 and 10.
In a related matter, a Mozambican rhino poacher caught at the Kruger National Park has been jailed for 20 years, police said.
Mapoyisa Mahlauli, 30, was sentenced on 7 September 2017 following his arrest last year in the game reserve.
"Mahlauli was sentenced to an effective 20 years imprisonment after he was found guilty... for various rhino-poaching related crimes," said police spokesperson Katlego Mogale in a statement on Monday.
"This will send a strong message to other potential rhino poachers about the consequences of their actions if caught."
Rangers tracked the poachers after they heard gun shots and discovered a white rhino whose horns had been freshly sawed off, in March last year.
A shoot-out ensued before Mahlauli was discovered with a rifle and a pair of rhino horns.
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