South African National Parks (SANParks) management welcomed the sentences handed down by the Skukuza Regional Court to two Mozambican nationals guilty of rhino poaching in Kruger National Park (KNP).
Lucky Shihlangu, 33, and Sergio Mathebula, 32, were found guilty and sentenced to a total of 22 years in prison, albeit they will only serve 18 years. Six accusations linked to the case were brought against them, and they were convicted guilty on all six counts.
On September 21, 2022, rangers from the Malelane Section of the KNP apprehended the persons. Rangers started hunting for the duo after hearing gunfire and discovering a new rhino corpse nearby.
The pursuit of the suspects led to the discovery of two poachers who were in possession of a hunting rifle with a large calibre, live ammunition, and two fresh rhino horns.
The State presented evidence connecting the gun and the horns to the surrounding carcass.
Oscar Mthimkhulu, the Chief Executive Officer of the KNP, commended everyone who contributed to the arrest and conviction.
“We are glad to have removed a pair of criminals and poaching equipment from the system. We know there are big role players who still need to come to trial and hope they too will face the might of the law like their ground troops.
“Collaboration between all law enforcement agencies is important for us to get on top of the situation.
“The recent arrests, convictions and sentences should serve as a warning to criminals that we are serious about protecting our natural heritage and will continue in memory of our colleagues, who paid the ultimate price in their work,” Mthimkhulu said.
Since the beginning of the year, the Skukuza Regional Court has enjoyed a 100% conviction record and has pledged to continue convicting anybody who unlawfully hunts in a national park.