Johannesburg – A suspected rhino poacher was shot dead in a clash with Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife rangers at the Ndumo Game Reserve in Mganu, the conservation organisation said on Friday.
The shooting incident, which happened on late Thursday afternoon, followed the discovery of a freshly killed adult female white rhino earlier in the morning, said spokesperson Musa Mntambo.
“Only the anterior [front] horn had been crudely removed and the posterior horn was still in place,” he said.
The discovery prompted field rangers to secure the site for further investigation and they positioned themselves in thick bush around the site in case the poachers returned to collect the remaining horn.
Around 18:00, five men were observed approaching the site.
Waiting field rangers, acting according to established protocol, challenged the men by announcing who they were, and called on them to lay down their weapons, Mntambo said.
Pointed weapon at rangers
“One man, who was carrying a rifle, immediately lifted the weapon and pointed it at the field rangers, who [then] opened fire, wounding him in the leg.
“The other four intruders fled into the thick bush surrounding the site,” Mntambo said.
First aid treatment was administered to the wounded man. However he died before an ambulance arrived.
A .375 calibre hunting rifle was confiscated.
Mntambo said the case was handed over to police for investigation.
The killed rhino brought the KwaZulu-Natal total of poached rhinos since the beginning of the year to nine – seven from protected areas and two from private properties.
The recent killing follows the shooting of another white rhino in Ndumo on Tuesday.