A South African court has sentenced three Mozambican men to 25 years in prison for illegally hunting rhinos.
The men, Aselmo Baloyi, Jawaki Nkuna and Ismael Baloyi, were found guilty on four charges, including the illegal hunting of a rhino in Kruger National Park in July 2010. They were caught with an assault rifle, a hunting rifle, an axe and two freshly chopped rhino horns. A fourth accused tried to escape, but was re-arrested and died in custody last year, reports news24.com.
South African Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa expressed hope that the court sentence “will send a strong message” to poachers and would-be poachers. Earlier this month, news24.com reported that government officials were discussing the re-erection of a 150 km fence along the border between South Africa and Mozambique to reduce poaching.
This sentencing comes just weeks after news of around 450 rhinos being poached in South Africa in 2011 made headlines worldwide. Last year, 232 suspected poachers were arrested, David Mabunda, head of South Africa National Parks, told BBC Africa. Despite the poaching, South Africa is still home to the world’s largest rhino population–1,916 black rhinos and 18,780 white rhinos.
According to BBC Africa article, poachers typically dart a rhino with a tranquilizer before using a chainsaw to cut away its horn, which is later exported to the Middle East or Asia. The animal is usually left to bleed to death. Some game farms in South Africa de-horn their rhinos specifically to deter poachers from targeting them.