Johannesburg – There has been a significant rise in poaching in the Kruger National Park (KNP) over the Easter weekend, SA National Parks (SANParks) said on Tuesday.
Over the past two long weekends more poachers had made incursions into the park, SANParks said in a statement.
“The heightened activities started on 21 March and until yesterday [Monday] 1 April, there were 56 incursions recorded by the KNP rangers’ corps.”
Commander of operations Johan Jooste said: “While the rest of the country was relaxing, our men in uniform were kept busy by greedy bandits that want to plunder our natural heritage.
“We would like to commend our rangers and allies from the SANDF and SAPS for the assistance this past two long weekends. If it was not for their dedication, we could be counting huge losses.”
Poaching tracks were noticed, shots were fired on six occasions, and groups of poachers were spotted four times, with some of them escaping back into Mozambique.
There had been four clashes with poachers.
In one of these, a poacher was shot dead on Saturday. Another poacher was believed to have committed suicide on Monday.
On Sunday, rangers arrested a poacher with a rifle, ammunition, and poaching equipment.
“In the same incident, a badly mutilated rhino cow was discovered nearby with its horns hacked off but still alive and bleeding profusely from its wounds,” SANParks said.
The search for the arrested poacher’s accomplices was continuing.
Dead poacher found
In Nwanetsi on Monday, a shot was heard and patrolling rangers found the body of a suspected poacher with a self-inflicted injury. A rifle was found next to his body.
“It is thought he killed himself upon realising that he was surrounded.”
Jooste said park officials were saddened by the helicopter crash that claimed the lives of five soldiers.
“Our prayers and thoughts are with their next of kin and we offer our sincerest condolences,” he said.
The soldiers were killed on Saturday night when their helicopter, conducting a scheduled aerial patrol of the park as part of an anti-rhino poaching operation, crashed.
The SANDF said on Monday a preliminary investigation was underway to establish what led to the crash.