A ranger was shot and wounded during an operation to apprehend suspected poachers in the Kruger National Park on Friday evening.
The number of rhinos poached in South Africa since the beginning of the year now stands at 350 and CEO of SANParks, Dr David Mabunda maintains there is “a war out there with rangers in the front line of the battle.”
South African National Parks (SANParks) announced yesterday, 25 May, that Houtboschrand Section Ranger Andrew Desmet was shot and wounded in the stomach during contact with a group of suspected poachers north of Letaba at about 7 pm. The ranger was participating in a joint operation between SANParks and the SANDF.
The ranger was airlifted to a medical facility in Nelspruit where he underwent an operation. His condition is stable.
SanParks reports that while this incident was unfolding, another group of rangers made contact with a second group of armed poachers approximately 2 km away where a shoot-out ensued. During this fire fight the poachers managed to escape into the bush in the darkness and no arrests were made. A 458 heavy calibre rifle and other poaching equipment were recovered at the scene.
The CEO of SANParks, Dr David Mabunda, has extended his well wishes to Andrew on behalf of all staff in SANParks. Andrew is a long serving member of our ranger corps. “We thank all those who played a role in getting Andrew to safety and we wish him a speedy recovery. SANParks remains committed to doing everything in our power to roll back the scourge of rhino poaching, and to ensure that those who commit these crimes are brought to justice.”
These incidents follow contacts earlier in the week in which two suspected poachers were arrested. These arrests brought to 50 the number of suspected poachers arrested in the Kruger National Park so far this year. According to SANParks Head of Communications, Paul Daphne, while the increasing number of suspected poachers being arrested in the Kruger Park may reflect the increasing numbers engaging in rhino poaching, it also indicates that measures put in place by SANParks are making an impact.
“In 2012 we were arresting 6 suspected poachers a month, while in the first 4 months of this year the rate of arrests has climbed to almost 12 per month. The doubling of the rate of arrests is an indication of our on-going commitment to do all that it takes to bring these criminals to book”.
In related news… On 23 May Abel Mfana Mashabane from Phalaborwa was sentenced in the NelspruitRegional Court or eight years for carrying out a restricted activity in a designated area in the Krouger National Park and three years for trespassing in the same park. The sentences will be served consecutively.
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