Two rhino poaching kingpins back in court

Two men believed to have been the "kingpins" in a rhino poaching syndicate operating out of Gauteng are expected back in the Benoni Magistrate’s Court on Friday.

Mandla Mashele, 37, and Kelvin Malapane, 30, were arrested in May and appeared in the Benoni Magistrate's Court in June where they were released on bail of R50 000 each. 

Their arrest came after a two-year-long operation. Although they were not suspected of being poachers themselves, they were thought to have acquired rhino horn and then facilitated the export of the horn to southeast Asia.

News24 previously reported that Hawks' Colonel Johan Jooste described the arrest as a major breakthrough in the fight against poaching.

He explained at the time that the duo was charged with the illegal sale of rhino horn, but more charges may be added at a later stage.

"We made a paradigm shift in wildlife trafficking and the whole supply chain," Jooste said.

"These specific persons have recruited people to obtain rhino horn, then they will pay a high price for the horn that will be received by the two or three runners working for them and from there they will supply end-user markets," he explained.

"We will always see the ripple effect in terms of how effective it was, so it's always important irrespective of how big the syndicate was."

News24 previously reported that the Kruger National Park, where the two men were thought to have sourced the rhino horn from, had been a hot spot for rhino poaching.

In 2017, of the 1 028 rhino that were poached in South Africa, 504 were poached from the park.

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