NELSPRUIT, SOUTH AFRICA, April 24 — Four men convicted of trespassing and illegal hunting in the Kruger National Park have been sentenced to 15 years imprisonment each by a court in Nelspruit, capital of the northeastern South African province of Mpumalanga.
Patrick Ngwenya, 28, from Marite village, Sibusiso Mpangane, 26, and Thulani Mchunu, 31, both from Mkhuhlu village, and Charles Zitha, 29, from Nyongane village, were sentenced when they appeared in the Nelspruit Regional Court on Wednesday.
They were found guilty of trespassing, carrying out a restricted activity in the game reserve and possession of illegal firearms and ammunition.
State prosecutor Isbet Erwee said poaching-related crimes were prevalent. “The court is aware of the increase of such cases in the past four years. Since July last year until February, cases of rhino poaching were high in the Kruger National Park and some carcasses have still not been found.”
Erwee said 34 rhino poaching cases were recorded in July last year, 75 in August, 60 in September, 27 in November, 66 in December, 49 in January this year and 22 in February.
A total of 53 firearms, 228 ammunition, 42 axes, nine vehicles and 20 rhino horns were seized during the arrests. In each poaching group arrested there were two or more firearms, knives and axes, she said.
The prosecutor added that since the arrest of the four accused in court, poaching had increased in the Kruger Park despite attempts and further attempts in actively handling poaching operations, or convictions of suspects.
Magistrate André Geldenhuys said the crime was well planned as each of the accused had a weapon, meaning they all acted with a common purpose.