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On December 6, a Kruger National Park Court sentenced three poachers to more than 20 years in prison for unlawful firearm possession in the famed wildlife reserve. In August, two accomplices received extra sentences.
The lawsuit arose from a traffic stop nearly 5 years ago when rangers discovered a hunting rifle and ammunition hidden amid food backpacks inside a rental car driving through the reserve.
One perpetrator, Fanuel Ubisi, promptly pleaded guilty to all charges from the July 29 bust and earned 8 years incarceration this summer. However, his resolute accomplices rejected plea deals and proceeded defiantly to trial.
That path proved unwise after the exhaustive proceedings ultimately ended in guilty verdicts anyway. The driver, Norman Mogale, received 6 years for the weapon itself plus a concurrent 2-year ammunition sentence equating to the same 8 years handed to Ubisi.
But additional trespassing convictions for passengers Sipho Ngomane and Nkosana Ndlovu pushed their cumulative punishment to 10 years behind bars. All three also suffer a lifetime firearm ownership ban per the convictions this month.
Authorities applauded cooperative efforts across institutions to unravel intrusions and penalise banditry in the treasured conservation area. “We rely on diligence from rangers as a first line of defence for precious ecosystems and iconic species,” said prosecutor Malusi Ntuli. “Then our courts affirm those protections.”
With rhino poaching an ongoing menace inside borders, officials hope the stern sentencing dissuades schemes to penetrate sanctuaries heavily patrolled by rangers tasked with safeguarding Kruger’s irreplaceable natural heritage.