A poacher was killed and another injured in a shootout with a specialist Anti-Poaching Unit on the Thula Thula Private Game Reserve at Ntambana in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, on Saturday 21 July 2018. The men were part of a group of eight confronted by the unit after shots were herd near a herd of Elephants on the reserve, which are thought to have been the intended targets of the poachers, with the remaining men fleeing the conflict. Five more members of the gang were later apprehended on the reserve, with one remaining at large. The injured man has been arrested and is being held in a hospital while he receives treatment for his wounds.
Patroling vehicles from the Thula Thula Private Game Reserve's specialist Anti-Poaching Unit on 21 July 2018. Zululand Observer.
In a separate incident a poacher was also arrested in the Kruger National Park on Sunday 22 July, after apparently being chased and trampled by a herd of Elephants. The man became separated from his group and approached a group of tourists, who held him until the police arrived. It is unclear what happened to the rest of his group. This incident came three days after a ranger on the reserve was shot dead by poachers.
Elephants are considered to be threatened across Africa, due to a combination of hunting, principally for the value of their tusks, and habitat loss, with the population across the continent thought to have dropped from 3-5 million in 1900 to about 415 000 today, and about 50% of Elephant-suitable land having disappeared since 1970. In South Africa the population trend has run the other way, with the population having fallen to a low of about 120 individuals in 1920, then risen to about 10 000 today through careful conservation management. However, while the country's extensive system of game reserves and national parks means that Elephants in South Africa face no immediate threat from habitat loss, the high black market value of Elephant ivory, combined with the high number of people living in poverty in the nation, means that Elephants are very much at risk from illegal hunting (poaching),
Elephants and Rhinoceros on the Thula Thula Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu Natal. Thula Thula Private Game Reserve.
The crime is extremely profitable, and widely believed to be controlled by organised crime syndicates, which are believed to have considerable influence over police and court officials in many areas, which results in suspected poachers often being released before they are brought to trial, often with only nominal bail payments. This has in turn prompted many reserves to develop their own security measures, hiring and training specialist rangers to keep poachers off reserves, occasionally in violent confrontations.
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