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Rhino Poacher Meets Grisly End and Accomplices Receive Stiff Sentences

Published March 22, 2024
2 months ago

A deadly encounter between poachers and wildlife marked a grim incident in South Africa's famed Skukuza National Park, underscoring the perils of wildlife crime. Mbongeni Selephi Ngobeni (28) has been sentenced to 17 years of direct imprisonment by the Skukuza Regional Court following his involvement in the illegal poaching and slaughter of a rhinoceros. Ngobeni was part of a trio caught in the act by vigilant rangers who subsequently gave chase, leading to a dramatic and tragic culmination of events.

On the 21st of June 2016, rangers patrolling the Pretoriuskop Section encountered the brutal aftermath of the poachers’ deed—a rhino mercilessly killed and relieved of its horns. The ensuing manhunt culminated in a fatal and eerie chase, where one poacher dashed into a dam teeming with crocodiles, resulting in his gruesome demise. Another suspect managed to elude capture, while Ngobeni was seized by law enforcement.

The Skukuza Regional Court heard compelling evidence against Ngobeni. The State Prosecutor, Lot Mgiba, meticulously constructed a case grounded in irrefutable forensic data. DNA tests linked the rhino horns discovered on Ngobeni to the carcass, and ballistics traced the fatal shot back to the firearm found in his possession—a damning convergence of evidence.

Meanwhile, in a case disturbingly echoing the former, the same courtroom adjudicated over the illicit endeavors of two Mozambican men nabbed within the expanse of Kruger National Park. Esseu Dlamini (46) and Samsom Maluleka (36) stood accused of a similar set of nefarious acts—this time on the 22nd of December 2021—of which they would subsequently be convicted.

Kruger National Park's vigilant technical experts discerned their furtive movements near the Stolzneck Section, leading to a rapid response by rangers. When apprehended and searched, the duo was found with a heavily modified rifle, designed for big-game hunting, two hunting knives, and additional ammunition.

In court, the accused plead not guilty, a plea quashed by the evidence brought forth by Mgiba. Rangers and police officers testified, corroborating the narrative of the prosecutor's case, ultimately resulting in convictions for both Dlamini and Maluleka, who now face 15-year sentences each—a significant period of incarceration reflective of the gravity of their crimes.

These incidents at Skukuza and Kruger National Parks are a harrowing reminder of the risks rangers face and the ongoing battle against poaching in South Africa. The severe sentences rendered by the courts serve not only as a penalty for the perpetrators but also as a stern warning to would-be offenders about the consequences of threatening the country's precious wildlife.

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