Three suspects allegedly caught red-handed with a rhino horn outside Grahamstown last year could be linked to a countrywide poaching syndicate responsible for the slaughter of more than 90 rhinos.
According to police, since the trio’s arrest in June last year there has not been a single incident of rhino poaching in South Africa involving darting.
The men’s upcoming trial will be the to use a forensic dart gun testing system – similar to that of a firearm ballistics system –to link specific darts to the guns used in poaching.
Jabulani Ndlovu, 38, and Sikhumbuzo Ndlovu, 37, who both live in Port Elizabeth, and Forget Ndlovu, 40, of George – they are not related – were apprehended at the Makana Resort outside Grahamstown for the alleged possession of a rhino horn worth an estimated R1.2-million.
The horn was cut off a white rhino bull poached on the Buckland’s Game Reserve.
In what is expected to be a gripping trial, police and prosecutors will paint a picture of a highly organised syndicate which travels the country killing and de-horning rhinos.
In an affidavit submitted to court in November, Stock Theft and Endangered Species Unit detective Captain Morne Viljoen says the men are the prime suspects in 40 rhino killings in the Eastern Cape as well as about 50 in KwaZulu-Natal, five in Limpopo and four in the Southern Cape.
While little is known about how the horn was smuggled out of South Africa, all three have made several trips to Zimbabwe in recent years.
The dart gun confiscated during the raid has already allegedly been linked to several poachings across the country in which darts and the lethal drug M99 were used.