http://lowvelder.co.za/310570/knp-poachers-shot/Poachers threaten tourism
An informed source said the arrogance of the poachers has become a concern.
7 hours ago
MBOMBELA – The threat to tourists visiting the Kruger National Park (KNP) has just become a reality after two poachers were killed on Wednesday. A heavily armed man was spotted by visitors in the Napi area and they immediately reported it to park authorities. The KNP reacted immediately and its forces were deployed to the scene.
According to the park’s executive manager, Mr Glen Phillips, the tourists reported seeing this man walking in the the park on Wednesday night. A helicopter and the police’s K9 specialised dog unit were deployed to the scene. “Rangers found the man with a second suspect in the bush.
“As the rangers ordered the men to surrender, they opened fire. A shoot-out ensued with rangers in which both suspects were fatally wounded.”
“A high-calibre hunting rifle was recovered,” said Phillips. Lowvelder obtained information that more than five poachers had been killed since December.”
Phillips didn’t want to officially comment as he still had to wait for the final statistics to be released. He denied having knowledge of an incident where the poachers opened fire on the anti-poaching helicopter a few weeks ago. He claimed that “a ranger fired a shot from the helicopter and a shell ricocheted against its blade. The helicopter incurred no damage, however.”
An informed source said the arrogance of the poachers has become a concern. Phillips confirmed that they posted a threat to the safety of the park’s visitors.
“Our greatest fear is being confronted by a tourist-poacher incident,” he told Lowvelder yesterday. “We can’t exclude the possibility of one of them hijacking a tourist or even a hostage situation.” He acknowledged the increasing ferocity with which poachers had been pursuing their goals.
“They’ve become more experienced in their field,” Phillips said. In light of these realisations, KNP rangers have been tackling the war on poaching with full force. More than a handful of poachers recently paid for their crimes with their lives.
He expressed appreciation for the visitors’ assistance in reporting the suspicious man. This is not the first time that poachers had been walking in an area frequented by tourists.
Last April a similar scenario played out near the park’s Phalaborwa Gate. Phillips said they had response plans in place to combat any threat to the safety of the park and its visitors. “We’re ready for any situation. We have to be,” he said.