Mozambican rhino poacher sentenced to 21 years’ imprisonment

Philani Nombembe

Rhino poacher Santos Baloyi has been sentenced to 21 years behind bars.
Image: Baz Ratner/Reuters

A rhino poacher has more than two decades to reflect on the havoc he wreaked on South Africa’s endangered species after the Skukuza regional court handed him a hefty sentence this week. 

Field rangers came across Santos Baloyi, 34, and two accomplices in the Kruger National Park’s Afsaal section, near Malelane, in September 2022. Mpumalanga police spokesperson Brig Selvy Mohlala said the “field rangers’ attention was drawn by the sound of a gunshot very close to where they were patrolling”.

“When they went to investigate, they spotted the convict and his two accomplices. The field rangers ordered them to stop, but instead, one of the trio decided to point a firearm in the direction of the two field rangers.

“There was a shoot-out between the suspects and the rangers. The intruders fled to evade arrest. Baloyi sustained a gunshot wound on his leg and was apprehended. The other ranger went after the other two. As it became dark, the rangers suspended their search.”

Mohlala said police were called to the scene and Baloyi was arrested and charged.

“Meanwhile the search was later continued after other rangers joined in. As a result, a backpack was found with the firearm, an axe, a bush knife as well as a pair of fresh rhino horns.

“The search continued the following day and the lifeless body of the other possible poacher was found in the tall grass around the vicinity and next to his body, there was a hunting rifle fitted with a silencer. The third possible poacher could not be traced,” said Mohlala.

Baloyi pleaded guilty to entering the park without a permit, possession of endangered species body parts and for poaching.

The court handed him a 21-year jail sentence — two years in prison for trespassing, five years for possession of an unlawful firearm, two years for possession of ammunition without a licence, 10 years for unlawful possession of rhino horns, one year for possession of dangerous weapons and one year for contravening the Immigration Act after authorities discovered he was from Mozambique and had been in South Africa illegally.

“Though Baloyi was sentenced to 21 years’ imprisonment, some of the sentences will run concurrently. Hence he will serve an effective 18 years’ imprisonment. He was further declared unfit to possess a firearm,” said Mohlala.

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