Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ex-cop, Zim trainee professional hunter in court for rhino poaching

A SUSPECTED poacher hunting black rhino was happy to be found after he was charged down by elephants and stalked by lions, a Victoria Falls court heard.

Nkululeko Sibanda allegedly sang like a canary after his arrest at Nakavango Estate in July last year.

He led a combined force of local police and rangers from the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) to a house in Chinotimba township where four other suspects had taken refuge.

An AK47 rifle allegedly used in poaching activities was recovered. On Monday, a court adjourned to June the trial of Mike Tichaona Mahanzu, Nkululeko Sibanda, Sifiso Sibanda, Tembo Tshuma and Zambian national, Emmanuel Namusa, who face a combined sentence of 100 years if convicted of poaching and firearms offences.

Magistrate Peter Madiba heard how a disoriented Sibanda was rescued by rangers after a face-off with elephants and lions while out hunting black rhino for a pre-arranged South African buyer.

The other four men allegedly made good their escape, leaving him behind. He spent the night being stalked by lions and elephants before being found the following morning.

Nakavango Estate, previously known as the Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve, is the site of Rani Resorts’ Stanley and Livingstone Hotel. Through a partnership with Rani, it is also home to the Ranger Training Academy of the non-profit IAPF which recruits, trains, equips and deploys game rangers throughout the country.

The IAPF, in a statement, said poaching had not assumed a “disturbing trend” with individuals working in the wildlife industry growingly being implicated in poaching. Mahanzu is a former member of the ZRP Support Unit based at Nakavango Estate while Sifiso Sibanda was training to be a professional hunter.

Conservationists say 14 black rhino have been gunned down by poachers in game sanctuaries across Zimbabwe since the beginning of the year.

Last year, the country’s black rhino population, which numbers around 600, had a -6% growth rate. In April, the Director of National Parks and Wildlife, Vitalis Chadenga, claimed that between January 2010 and March 2011, 2,572 people had been arrested for poaching.

Source: New

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