A South African rhino poacher has been sentenced to 77 years in prison. Madla Chauke was arrested in 2011 in Kruger National Park, for the killing of three rhino calves. Chauke was also convicted of the murder of an accomplice, who was shot by park rangers. Chauke argued that he was coerced into poaching by his accomplices, one of whom escaped, but the judge disagreed, convicting Chauke of murder, illegal hunting, rhino horn theft, trespassing, and the illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. Convicting a poacher for murder of an accomplice is a rare move, and the heavy sentence serves as a warning to poachers in a country where 1,004 rhinos were killed in 2013, and in a statement the parks service said that the conviction gave a “boost to the anti-poaching teams who endure harsh conditions for the protection of our parks”.
Rhinos are killed for their horns, which is regarded as a healing agent and status symbol by some in South East Asia and China, despite a lack of evidence that it has medicinal properties. Rhino horn can fetch up to $95,000 per kilo on the illegal market.