News24 03 July 2019

Two Kruger National Park staff members are expected back in the Skukuza Magistrate’s Court in August in connection with the theft of rhino horns.

Elliot Nkuna, the head of the tour guide team in Skukuza, and his colleague, Aubrey Mathebula, were arrested last Thursday after two horns taken from the carcass of a black rhino disappeared. 

The animal apparently died of natural causes.

SANParks spokesperson Ike Phaahla said the two men had spotted the carcass in a dried-up stream, about 20km from Skukuza, while out on a guided walk with seven tourists.

The guides removed the horns from the carcass and put them in their backpack.

They apparently told the tourists – four from Argentina and three South Africans – that the horns would be handed to the senior game ranger in the Skukuza area for recording and safekeeping.

The tourists were questioned after a SANParks helicopter flew over the dried river bed and spotted the carcass. When the chief ranger in Skukuza sent a team to remove the horns, it was discovered that they were no longer there. 

There were numerous footprints around the carcass, and it was suspected that tourists had been there first.

The authorities tracked the tourists down and got statements from them.

They also supplied photos they had taken, with a few showing the horns in the backpack of the guides.

Nkuna and Mathebula were then confronted with the evidence and they allegedly admitted to stealing the horns.

The horns could, however, not be traced.

Phaahla said the matter was reported to the police.

The two men appeared in court on Monday, where they were released on R20 000 bail each. They will be back in the dock on August 7.

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