– Tracker dog praised as two poachers convicted

News24 Correspondent

Mbombela – A magistrate in Mpumalanga has praised a Belgian Malinois dog that successfully tracked two poachers, resulting in their conviction.

Andolino Mulcube, 20, and Jermano Tive, 20, appeared in the Nelspruit Regional Court on Tuesday. They were convicted of killing a white rhino in the Kruger National Park on January 19, 2013.

The two accused were arrested after a South African National Parks ranger and his dog successfully tracked them. They had found a dead rhino with its horn hacked off in the N’wanetsi area in Kruger National Park.

Although no horns were found in their possession, the men were linked through circumstantial evidence to two white rhino horns found about a kilometre away from their hideout.

Killer, South Africa's most successful poacher-catching canine, barks in his cage in the Kruger National Park. (Stefan Heunis, AFP)
Killer, South Africa’s most successful poacher-catching canine, barks in his cage in the Kruger National Park. (Stefan Heunis, AFP)

The dog, called Killer, was originally used by Belgian authorities to track explosives.

His trainer, Henry Holsthyzen, head of the canine anti-poaching academy at Paramount Group, which supplies working dogs to rangers in the park, had told the court previously that Killer’s mother had been bred from two well-known Belgian police dogs.

Killer was used by Belgian authorities to track specific explosives. But there was a bounty on his head and people wanted him killed.

Killer was put into an exchange programme and was brought to South Africa for his own protection.

Holsthyzen had told the court that Killer was introduced to Kruger at an early age.

He had bonded with a tracker, who cannot be named for protection purposes.

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Passing judgment magistrate Edward Hall said evidence was that on the day of the incident rangers had heard gunshots. Killer and two trackers followed the sounds.

On the way they found blood, a rhino carcass and spoor.

Killer’s handler had testified that the horns seized were freshly cut. This was evident because they still had blood on them. They were from a white rhino.

Hall said Killer and his handler followed the spoor. Killer found the first suspect hiding in shrubs, a kilometre from the carcass.

He said three human spoors were identified, but Killer and his handler managed to catch only two men.

The suspects had told rangers that their accomplice had run away and taken the firearm with him.

State prosecutor Isabet Erwee had asked the court to consider what the law states about trackers.

“Trackers and dogs are recognised in courts in the manner they are trained and perform. The court can accept their version,” Hall said.

The case was postponed to Friday for sentencing.

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