A 34 year old Santos Baloyi was sentenced to 18 years direct imprisonment at Skukuza Regional Court on Thursday 2 February 2023 for rhino poaching and other related charges.
Baloyi and two of his accomplices were caught in the Kruger National Park on 10 September 2022 by the field rangers who were busy with their routine patrols at Afsaal section of the park close to Malelane.
According to information, the field rangers’ attention was drawn by the sound of a gunshot very close to where they were patrolling. When they went to investigate, they spotted the convict and his two accomplices. The field rangers ordered them to stop, but instead one of the trio decided to point a firearm towards the direction of the two field rangers.
There was a shootout between the suspects and the rangers.
The intruders in the park could not surrender but instead fled the battle field to evade the arrest. Baloyi sustained a gunshot wound on his leg. He was apprehended and assisted with first aid by one of the rangers. The other ranger went after the other two who fled and somehow disappeared into the bushes.
As it became dark, the rangers suspended their search. The Police were summoned to the scene and the accused who sustained some injuries was arrested as well as charged accordingly. Meanwhile the search was later continued after other rangers joined in. As a result, a back pack was found with the firearm, an axe, a bush knife as well as a pair of fresh rhino horns.
The search continued the following day where other police disciplines as well as a tracker dog joined. The lifeless body of the other possible poacher was found within the tall grass around the vicinity and next to his body there was a hunting rifle fitted with a silencer.
The third possible poacher could not be traced.
The accused had his day in court and later pleaded guilty for entering the park without a permit, possession of endangered species body parts and for poaching. He was sentenced to two years imprisonment for trespassing, five years for possession of unlawful firearm, two years for possession of ammunition without a valid licence, 10 years for unlawful possession of rhino horns, one year for possession of dangerous weapons and one year for contravention of the immigration act as it was discovered during the investigation that the accused was from Mozambique and entered into South Africa illegally without valid documentations.
Though Baloyi was sentenced for 21 years imprisonment, some of the sentences will go concurrently hence he will serve an effective 18 years direct imprisonment. He was further declared unfit to possess a firearm.
The Provincial Commissioner of the SAPS in Mpumalanga, Lieutenant General Semakaleng Daphney Manamela has welcomed the sentence and indicated that the sentence will hopefully as a deterrence to others who might consider to get into a similar mission of destroying the country’s wildlife. The General further appreciated the field rangers from SANPARKS, the SAPS Investigation team, the Prosecution team and the Judiciary on the excellent work done which culminated into the well-deserved sentence.
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