Would-Be Rhino Poacher Caught Before He Had a Chance to Kill

It brought me immense pleasure to tell you about the apprehension of the first two fugitives from Interpol’s Most Wanted Environmental List which first launched in October 2014.

Similar arrests have taken place since, including the arrest of Nepal’s top wildlife criminal Rajkumar Praja who was caught in Malaysia. He’s the ringleader of a rhino poaching network in Nepal and was the subject of a global INTERPOL environmental fugitive operation. Information exchanged between the INTERPOL National Central Bureaus in Nepal and Malaysia led to his arrest by the Royal Malaysian Police in January 2015, and now Praja is due to serve a 15-year sentence for rhino poaching and trading internationally in rhino horns.

Continuing with the good news for those who appreciate justice for wildlife criminals, another rhino poacher has been nabbed, and this time authorities apprehended the criminal before the crime was committed.

South African National Parks announced earlier this week that Mozambican National Elliot Manzini was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition with the intention to kill rhino, and illegally entering Kruger National Park (KNP) with the intention to poach rhino.

In case you’re wondering, the heaviest sentencing to date for a South African rhino poacher is 77 years of jail time. The culprit: Mandla Chauke, who was arrested in 2011, also at Kruger National Park, after he and two other poachers shot and killed three rhinos.

When Manzini was arrested in May by South African National Parks (SANParks) Rangers, he was in possession of a .458 rifle and ammunition. Unfortunately two of Manzini’s companions fled back into Mozambique, but hopefully in time they too will be caught and held accountable for their inhumane actions.

SANParks welcomed the sentencing, and KNP Managing Executive Glenn Phillips commended the courts for imposing the lengthy jail term, stating:

“We are happy that the courts have rewarded the hard work done by the Rangers, our Environmental Crime Investigative Unit and the South African Police. The sentencing will also help to lift the morale of all men and women in uniform who constantly have to react to dangerous situations involving rhino poaching.”

Well said, Phillips. Dealing with poachers can be extremely dangerous business for rangers, many of whom risk their lives to protect animals.

If you’ve ever been to South Africa’s Kruger National Park, where Manzini was caught, you know that it is a wildly special place. Animals large and small roam free, but apparently not free from harm. (If you’d like a glimpse of Kruger wildlife, feel free to check out some of my amateur-at-best-photos on Flickr.)

While the world needs national parks to provide a safe haven for wildlife and ensure that future generations of unique species survive, poachers continue to pose a direct, serious threat to their survival, even in protected areas like Kruger. As I explained before, to poachers, rhinos are worth more dead than alive because their horns can fetch as much as $250,000 in underground markets.

Of course, you can’t put a price on one’s life.

There’s no telling how many animals Manzini may have illegally killed in his lifetime, but hopefully his capture will prevent him from harming rhinos in the future.

While catching this poacher before he had the chance to kill may be good news, there are so many illegal wildlife killers out there, on the loose, and although rhino populations may be growing healthily overall, some subspecies are still listed as Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Poaching poses a serious threat to rhinos, as Dr. Joseph Okori, head of WWF’s African Rhino Programme, explains:

“The African rhino is under serious threat from poachers who have intensified their search of rhino for their horns since 2007, driven by growing market demands in Asia. The rhino poaching trend is extremely worrying. If it is not stopped, the world could lose African rhinos. This is a tragedy we do not want to contemplate.”

Rangers and other officials are using everything in their means to stop poachers in their tracks, including drones, but it’s difficult and risky work for wildlife protectors on the ground, so INTERPOL is seeking the public’s support in locating international fugitives.

If you want to help officials nab would-be poachers before they have a chance to kill, familiarize yourself with INTERPOL’s Infra Terra Most Wanted Persons list before you head to national parks like Kruger. Of course, never confront a suspected poacher yourself. Leave that to the professionals. Instead, if you have information about any of the people listed, send an email to INTERPOL’s Fugitives Unit.

How gratifying would that be to help catch a known wildlife criminal who is on the run from justice?

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Mark Donners
Mark Donner2 years ago

Poachers using high tech weaponry. drones and helicopters who murder rangers are "impoverished".. give me a f***king break.

Mark Donners
Mark Donner2 years ago

"The poachers kill because that is the only way they can get money" I wish morons would just shut up with the same repetitive greed whining. The only way criminal thugs can get rich quick by knowingly committing crimes, you mean.. Are you going to excuse ISIS, Ted Bundy, and the Mexican drug cartels for being "poor people" next? Sorry but poverty is NO excuse whatsoever for deliberate criminal acts. Why is that some of the poorest people in the world have respect for their wildlife. Because they are not immoral, vicious greedy thugs and have self respect, that's why. No if you plan to poach, you deserve to be lined up in front a firing squad. Then your poverty problem is solved, isn"t it?

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C3 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H3 years ago

Personally, I would prefer a much steeper penalty for the poachers...

Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey3 years ago

This is good news. Hopefully the sentences will deter other poachers from stepping in.

mari s.
Mari S3 years ago

GOOD! GOOD! GOOD! -- Keep it up! -- until you get each & every idiot poacher! -- ALSO -- it seems like a drop in the ocean BUT what does this mean? We must forge ahead no matter what -- the drops add up, one at a time -- PLUS, let's not forget to target the market that buys into the bullshit of horns & ivory, etc. -- eliminating the market for these products would be HUGE! Let's keep promoting the fact that these products do NOT bring what the market thinks it brings -- the reality is that this business is a huge scam -- this business brings lies, fraud, untruths -- let's enlighten this market which in reality is in the dark!

Mark Verbossche
Mark Verbossche3 years ago

This is unfortunately a drop in the ocean. Combine millions of greedy, despicable chinese scum, who don't give two hoots about any living thing on this planet, with millions of poor africans armed to the teeth who will kill any living thing on this planet if paid a minuscule amount of money, and you have the most deadly combination of evil, capable of destroying all the wildlife the rest of us admire, respect and want to protect. The only solution to this problem is if humanity ceases to exist.

Muriel Servaege
Muriel Servaege3 years ago

Unfortunately, there are many more other poachers.

Nicole Heindryckx

I already commented largely on this article. But just checking what other, interesting comments came on in the meantime. I am so deeply disappointed. Earning butterflies is a good thing. But it is better to have an opinion. There are each time, whether it is a petition or just an article with good news, sooooooo many people who are even too lazy to write thank you in full. TY. Sometimes even 4,5,6 and more times. Is this human intelligence ???

Paul Cole
Paul Cole3 years ago

throw away the key.