Hidden hand in rhino poaching gun supply
The source of brand new‚ imported high-powered hunting rifles seized during the arrest of rhino poachers has become a burning point for Kruger National Parks officials.
The Kruger National Park’s chief ranger Nicholas Funda said that the State Security Department and the police were unable to offer an explanation and that the trend was "of great concern".
662 rhinos were poached in the Kruger National Park in 2016‚ with 90% of rangers’ efforts dedicated to protecting the dwindling species.
"We are getting new ones [hunting rifles] in the bush. State Security cannot tell us where they come from. One would think that it would be a concern to the state that people are bringing in firearms to the country illegally‚ but they cannot tell us where they come from‚" Funda said.
He said that he suspected the rifles were being brought in from Mozambique with the aid of an international hand.
"We suspect they are coming from there and that someone might be ordering them specifically for these poachers from abroad‚" he said.
"Most of the firearms that we deal with are 458 and 375 hunting rifles and we are finding top of the range brand new hunting rifles that we could not even afford to buy‚" Funda said.
"We had been finding old rifles before and now we find them with very new guns. Someone is supplying them."
Funda said that with hundreds of millions in funding flooding the park to combat rhino poaching‚ they were slowly winning the fight.
"The rhino will not be extinct in my lifetime‚ we will not let that happen. As South Africans we cannot allow that to happen."
- TMG Digital/TimesLIVE