Two men in their late 50s were found guilty of various charges relating to rhino poaching in the Skukuza Regional Court.

 Photo: Linzetta Calitz

SANParks welcomed the lengthy jail terms handed down by the Skukuza Regional Court to two convicted rhino poachers on February 26.

The two men from Mozambique were arrested in the Satara section of the Kruger National Park (KNP) on May 22, 2019 by rangers who responded to the sound of shots being fired; they found two rhino carcasses with their horns still intact.

The two men were arrested close to the scene where the carcasses were found. Poaching equipment, including a high-powered rifle, was recovered and linked to the killing of the rhinos.

Americo Mathonsi (59) and his accomplice, Michael Chauke (57) were found guilty of trespassing in a national park, killing of rhinos which are a protected species, possession of an illegal firearm and ammunition, contravention of the immigration act, and possession of dangerous weapons.

They were each sentenced to a total of 23 years in prison.

Gareth Coleman, the managing executive of the KNP commended the team that made the arrests.

“We welcome the resumption of trials in Skukuza after the court experienced technical problems with their recording equipment and congratulate the prosecution for presenting a compelling case to the court which led to the two convictions and sentencing.

“Our continued collaboration with the SAPS and NPA is bearing results with the sentences that have been meted out by the court. There is still more to be done, especially outside the park, to arrest those responsible for destroying our natural heritage.

“Our anti-poaching teams will be encouraged by these sentences which prove that their efforts are not in vain,” concluded Coleman.

The Skukuza Regional Court is expected to finalise several high-profile cases this year including that of former KNP regional ranger Rodney Landela whose trial is set for June 2022.

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