The six photographs with this Blog post were sent to me by a friend in South Africa about an hour ago. They depict a gang of poachers after they were apprehended by the police. They had obviously been poaching under cover of darkness and using spotlights to dazzle their prey. Most of the antelope killed appear to be mountain reedbuck females, and duiker. They also shot a genet cat and a mongoose. Unfortunately, as yet I have no details of where exactly this took place but will update this Blog post as I hear more.
Looking at the photographs it appears as if the gang were well organised and knew what they were doing. The rifles used have suppressors on, but I haven’t been able to identify the calibre from the empty cartridge cases because the photo quality isn’t very good. Judging by the spotlights lying around, I’d go so far as to suggest they have done this before. What intrigues me though, is where they learnt to night shoot, and I can only surmise the key members of the gang have worked for (and possibly still do), a commercial game ranch, Provincial National Parks department, or a commercial game culling outfit.
Looking at the bullet damage to the carcasses it’s obvious their shot-placement wasn’t very good. By the same token to have managed to kill this much game without attracting attention to themselves makes you wonder. It’s not beyond reason that the police may have been acting on a tip-off as it seems they were stopped on their way back from their ill-fated poaching venture. South Africa has a serious poaching problem because the scourge isn’t confined to the use of cable and wire snares by unemployed tribal subsistence poachers. Anyone who can afford the kind of equipment used here, and a vehicle, isn’t exactly living in poverty. This gang was poaching commercially, not for subsistence.
The sad thing is they will probably get away with perhaps 3-months behind bars and nobody knows how many gut shot animals have been left to die a slow death out in the bush.
Update: A South African Police press release says the poachers were apprehended at around 03:00 on Monday 4 December on Mauchsburg Plantation. It is in the Pilgrimsrest area of the Eastern Transvaal. Two hunting rifles and approximately 500 rounds were confiscated, and both rifles were aparently licensed. In addition police recovered 7 x mobile phones and 6 x spotlights. The vehicle wasn't stolen and belonged to one of the poaching gang who was arrested. It is believed the game was poached to supply illegal miners in the Pilgrimsrest area with meat. The Nature Conservation Department is also involved with the ongoing investigation, and the total value of the wildlife killed is still to be ascertained.