Nine men have been arrested by the Modimolle stock theft unit for alleged rhino poaching in Limpopo in the past few weeks.
"In the most recent incident, four suspects were arrested while they were on their way to allegedly shoot rhinos at a private game reserve near Lephalale," said SAPS spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Ronel Otto.
After receiving information about a possible shooting attempt in the area, police arrested the men at a roadblock near Vaalwater.
The men's vehicle was confiscated as well as an axe and a .303 hunting rifle. "It has since been established that the rifle was stolen during a house breaking at Kameeldrift outside Pretoria," she said.
The four men, three from Zimbabwe and one from Mozambique, will appear in the Lephalale Magistrate's Court.
In a separate incident about three weeks ago, five men were arrested for allegedly attempting to poach rhino in a private game reserve.
Otto said the owners of the game reserve found human tracks on the farm and alerted the police. Police trackers and private helicopters were called in and assisted with the search for poachers.
"Five suspects, all from Zimbabwe, were arrested in the veld. Two firearms, a .308 hunting rifle and a .303 hunting rifle were confiscated," she said. The men had appeared in court and their case was remanded. She said it has since been established that the men could also be linked to incidents of housebreaking in Lephalale and Stockpoort, from where the firearms were allegedly taken.
Meanwhile, a white rhino was found dead with both horns removed in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife said on Thursday last week.
Fourteen rhino were killed by poachers in KwaZulu-Natal this year, including a white rhino killed in Ophathe Game Reserve near uLundi on August 9.
The increase in rhino poaching is partly due to the disbanding of specialist police units, AfriForum said. "The specialist unit was disbanded (in 2003) without an effective alternative being established in its place," said AfriForum's spokesperson on environmental affairs, James Kemp.
Afri-Forum welcomed the establishment of a task team to investigate rhino poaching, but the unit is not fully functional yet. There is also a lack of resources from employees of provincial nature reserves and the people combating poaching at grassroots level in Limpopo.
The average age of employees in Limpopo's reserves is 55 years. "The reserves need new blood moving into this profession. We need young people who are active, can walk long distances and can take over the fight one day," he said.
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