SOUTH AFRICA

South African rhino poacher jailed for 77 years

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 July, 2014, 1:22am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 July, 2014, 1:22am
AFP

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A South African court has jailed a rhino poacher for 77 years, one of the heaviest sentences handed out for the crime as poaching continues to escalate.

South African national Mandla Chauke was arrested in the sprawling Kruger National Park in 2011 after he killed three rhino calves. The park has seen the highest number of killings, with 370 slaughtered since January.

South African National Parks hailed the sentence, saying it showed that "the courts are keen on stamping out the scourge of poaching".

"It's one of the harshest sentences, and we hope it will send out a strong message to poachers out there," said the parks body's spokesman Reynold Thakhuli.

This month two Mozambicans were each jailed 16 years for killing and dehorning rhino.

They were also caught in Kruger Park. The vast area roughly the size of Israel forms a border with neighbouring Mozambique, a country where many poachers are recruited by international syndicates.

Rhinoceros horns are prized as a status symbol in Asia, where they are falsely believed to possess medicinal properties to cure cancers and hangovers, despite being composed of the same material as fingernails.

A total of 558 rhino have been killed across South Africa since the beginning of the year, according to figures released this month.