A Rhino poaching suspect has been shot and killed in a gunfight with wildlife rangers at Ndumo Game Reserve, on KwaZulu-Natal’s northern border with Mozambique.
The shooting happened early on Wednesday when a group of three poachers was intercepted in the reserve by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s anti-poaching unit.
Ezemvelo had received information on Tuesday night that a rhino poaching attempt was about to be launched in Ndumo.
According to Ezemvelo rhino security co-ordinator Jabulani Ngubane, rifle shots were fired when the poaching suspects were confronted around 5am.
Ezemvelo officers returned fire and, once the shooting stopped, a critically injured man was found nearby.
He died before an ambulance arrived at the reserve.
Ngubane said the man’s age, nationality and other personal details had not yet been established. The other two suspects, including a man carrying a rifle, escaped.
Police had been notified and were expected to investigate the incident.
Ngubane said 18 rhinos had been poached in KwaZulu-Natal this year, either on private ranches or in provincial reserves.
Nationwide, at least 159 rhinos have been killed by horn-poaching criminal syndicates this year.
The heaviest losses have been in the Kruger National Park, where at least 95 rhinos have been killed in just over three months.
SA National Parks environmental crimes investigations head Ken Maggs said last week that more than 600 rhinos would be dead by the end of the year if the current slaughter rate continued.
Maggs said rhino horn poaching was now increasingly co-ordinated by organised crime syndicates, with profit levels comparable to illegal weapons and drugs trading. – The Mercury