Rhino Killer Fatally Shot Near Kruger National Park, South Africa

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Police prevailed during a skirmish in the battle to protect South Africa’s rhinos.


One suspected member of an international rhino horn syndicate was fatally shot and another wounded during a sting operation on a private game reserve near South Africa’s Kruger National Park.

Eight suspects in total, including two South Africans, were reportedly arrested.

The wounded individual is said to be a sniper from Mozambique.

Gang busted by ‘fake’ rhino

According to South Africa’s Eyewitness News, a “fake” rhino was placed on the reserve after police were tipped off about possible syndicate activity.

Police set up a trap on Friday after receiving information that a gang was planning to target a private game reserve near the Kruger National Park. A dummy rhino was then placed in the reserve, while police lay in wait.

When the gang shot at the rhino, police fired at the gang killing one suspect and critically wounding another.

Fortunately, no rhinos were harmed in the operation.

Read the entire article at 8 rhino poachers arrested.

Rhino killing spree

South African National Parks (SANParks) noted on May 20th that at least 159 rhinos have been murdered in South Africa in 2011.

The total number of rhinos killed reached a staggering 333 in South Africa last year.

At the root of this killing spree is the continued use of illegal rhino horn in traditional Chinese medicine, which is still sought after in both China and Vietnam.

However, rhino horn has been rigorously analyzed and actually contains no medical properties whatsoever. (Read the entire article at Busting the Rhino Horn Myth with Science.)

Corrupt factions fueling the rhino crisis

Unfortunately, it cannot be overlooked that corrupt factions within South Africa’s own wildlife conservation community have shared responsibility for fueling the country’s rhino crisis.

In addition to the high-profile “Groenewald gang“, a shocking number of arrests have involved professional hunters, safari operators and others entrusted to protect rhinos:

  • February 2011: After killing two rhinos on a legal hunt on a farm in Musina, a pair of Vietnamese nationals were arrested at the Wonderboom Airport in Pretoria when they were found to be in illegal possession of four rhino horns. They had arrived at the airport in a private helicopter belonging to the game farmer. At least one of the smugglers was released on bail.
  • January 2011: Wildlife veterinarian Dr. Andre Charles Uys was arrested for illegally removing the horns from 15 rhinos in the Maremani Game Reserve, located in Limpopo Province. Uys was released on R10,000 (US $1,416) bail by the Musina Magistrate’s Court.
  • January 2011: Mossel Bay hunter Christaan Frederik van Wyk was ordered to pay a fine of R30,000 (US $4,246) for illegally shooting a white rhino. The conviction stemmed from a hunting expedition with a Vietnamese client (Nguyen Tien Hoang) in Leshoka Thabang Game Lodge, on April 27th, 2006.
  • December 2010: An article in Bloomberg noted that South African hunter Peter Thormahlen has had at least two tangles with the law regarding involvement with the illegal rhino horn trade. In the first case, he was said to have paid a “token” fine, and his second case was dismissed.
  • October 2010: The criminal trial of safari operators George Fletcher and Gert Saaiman, along with professional hunter Frans van Deventer raised hopes that meaningful legal action would be taken against syndicate crimes. However, the case was thrown out by the North Gauteng High Court (the State’s star witness was apparently intimidated into not testifying) .
  • October 2010: Two KZN Wildlife staff members were arrested at Hlabisa and iMfolozi game reserves, and three KZN wildlife officials were suspended; their disciplinary hearing has been postponed several times.

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Image: istockphoto.com

Rhishja Cota-Larson

I am the founder of Annamiticus, an educational nonprofit organization which provides news and information about wildlife crime and endangered species. I am the Editor of Rhino Horn is Not Medicine and Project Pangolin, author of the book Murder, Myths & Medicine, a writer for the environmental news blog Planetsave, the host of Behind the Schemes, and Producer for the upcoming documentary The Price. When I'm not blogging about the illegal wildlife trade, I enjoy gardening, reading, designing, and rocking out to live music.

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One Comment

  1. SO GLAD There’s one poacher that will never kill another Rhino. Good Job Kruger National Park Police!!! I Salute you!