South Africa is home to more than 90% of the global rhino population. Picture: THE TIMES
South Africa is home to more than 90% of the global rhino population. Picture: THE TIMES

By 2016‚ police believed there were two groups behind a spate of rhino killings in the Eastern Cape‚ says former provincial head of detectives Brig Gary McLaren.

McLaren‚ who has since retired‚ was testifying in the trial of Jabulani Ndlovu‚ Forget Ndlovu and Sikhumbuzo Ndlovu‚ who are facing 50 charges related to the poaching of 13 rhino throughout the Eastern Cape over five years.

The three men‚ who are not related‚ were arrested following a police raid on the Makana holiday resort chalet they were staying at in June 2016.

Police seized a 10.27kg freshly harvested rhino horn valued at R1m‚ a bloody saw‚ a .22 dart gun and tranquilliser darts‚ a M99 tranquilliser‚ cellphones and SIM cards. The raid took place within hours of the poaching of a white rhino from nearby Bucklands game reserve.

McLaren‚ who is giving evidence in a trial-within-a-trial to establish the admissibility of the evidence gathered during the raid — which took place without a search warrant — said a special task team investigating rhino killings had established there were two poaching groups at work‚ decimating the rhino population in the province.

One used a dart gun and the other used a rifle with live ammunition. The group using the dart gun were labelled as the Ndlovu group‚ he said.

McLaren testified that police were aware of the movements of the Ndlovu group in the days leading up to the Bucklands Reserve killing.

The men’s advocate, Terry Price, initially objected to McLaren being allowed to testify‚ accusing senior state advocate Buks Coetzee of ambushing the defence with a witness that was not on any witness list. He later withdrew his objection saying he would argue the issue at the end of the trial.

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