Rhino poacher gets 77 year sentence

Rhino poacher Mandla Chauke was found guilty and sentenced to 77 years in prison on Tuesday.

A rhino bull which was moved from Limpopo to the Western Cape in May 2014. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN

CAPE TOWN - On Tuesday, the Nelspruit Magistrates Court found rhino poacher Mandla Chauke guilty and sentenced him to 77 years behind bars, with a 47 year suspension.

Some of the charges he was found guilty of include murder, the possession of a firearm and ammunition, trespassing, killing a rhino, theft and being in the possession of rhino horn.

Chauke was arrested after entering the Kruger National Park and poaching three rhinos with his accomplice Samson Msimango in 2011.

Msimango was shot dead by park rangers.

In light of the hefty sentenced handed to Chauke, SANParks' General Manager Reynold Thakhuli says it's premature to say the war against rhino poaching is not being won.

"We are applying and trying a number of things; we've increased the number of rangers on the ground and of course while the numbers [of rhino being poached] have gone up, we're seeing a decrease in terms of insurgence."

He says there are a number of things that need to be employed, such as high technology.

"As we speak, we are looking into that and we hope this will be able to help us decrease rhino poaching completely."

In terms of whether the potential repatriation of rhinos to private reserves are an option, Thakhuli says, "There have been a number of proposals that have been sent and some of them are being looked at. "

A special board meeting is set to take place on Thursday, where some of those proposals will be tabled.

Thakhuli says SANParks will, after Thursday's meeting, be able to divulge what the board has decided and what proposals will be sent to the minister.

This year alone 558 rhinos have already been poached, 157 people have been arrested for poaching and since January this year, 351 rhinos have been poached at the Kruger National Park.

At the same time last year 536 rhinos were poached.

LISTEN: 567 Cape Talk radio host Kieno Kammies speaks to SANParks General Manager Reynold Thakhuli about rhino poaching in SA.