A 45-year-old man was on Monday sentenced to an effective 28 years in prison after being convicted of conspiracy to hunt rhino, two counts of hunting and killing a protected species and one count of hunting without a permit.
The Empangeni regional court in KwaZulu-Natal sentenced Michael Kleinbaas Masuku for the incidents that took place in the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve in October 2018.
Before the incidents, Masuku conspired with another man to go into the game reserve to kill rhinos for financial gain.
Armed with the necessary weapons and tools, they gained access to the game reserve and shot two rhinos — a white rhino and black rhino.
“They removed two horns from the first rhino and one horn from the second rhino, before fleeing. Masuku was arrested shortly after as investigations led to him,” National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Natasha Ramkisson-Kara said.
She said prosecutor Sharon Bux led evidence of cellphone mapping showing that Masuku travelled from Mpumalanga to Hluhluwe before the hunting.
A state witness also gave evidence linking Masuku directly to the crimes, especially the shooting of the rhinos.
“Masuku was sentenced to eight years imprisonment for conspiracy, and 10 years imprisonment for each of the other charges.”
She said while Masuku was sentenced to a collective 38 years’ imprisonment, the court ruled that some sentences will run concurrently, resulting in an effective jail term of 28 years.
“We trust the sentence will serve as a warning to poachers,” Ramkisson-Kara said.