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A former field ranger has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for the senseless killing of a rhino in South Africa’s famed Kruger National Park.
Eckson Musa Matumbu was arrested in 2020 for shooting a rhino with his service weapon and illegal ammunition while stationed at the park’s Nwanetsi section. The brutal poaching of an animal he had sworn to protect has left colleagues shocked and saddened.
“We are pleased justice has been served, but this is a tragedy for all who care for these iconic creatures,” said park managing executive Oscar Mthimkhulu. “No one is above the law, regardless of position.”
Conservationists say the rhino slaughter by one tasked with its defense is a grave betrayal of public trust.
“Rangers are the last line of defence for endangered species like rhinos,” said StopRhinoPoaching advocacy head Elise Daffue. “This deplorable crime warrants the harshest punishment.”
While the sentencing delivers some solace, Kruger staff say Matumbu’s actions have irreparably harmed anti-poaching efforts in the reserve.
“The worst part is knowing one of our own did this,” said section ranger Dalton Langan. “It makes you question who you can trust anymore.”
Authorities hope the stiff 10-year sentence sends a stern warning that wildlife crime will not be tolerated, even within the ranks of rangers sworn to prevent it.