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Rhino poacher sentenced to 77 years in prison

(REUTERS/Marko Djurica)

A South African man accused of rhino poaching has been sentenced to 77 years in prison, the heaviest penalty imposed in history.

Rhino poacher sentenced to 77 years in prison

It’s a desperate bid to curb the wave of poaching that is threatening the population of the rhinoceros.

Mandla Chauke was convicted of shooting three rhinos, as well as murder and the possession of illegal firearms after he and two other poachers cut through wire fencing at the famous Kruger National Park in 2011.

The murder charge was in light of one of Chauke’s accomplices being killed in a shootout with park rangers. The third poacher escaped.

South Africa’s leading game park, the Kruger is home to 22,000 rhinos but has lost 370 to poachers this year alone. Authorities believe many of the hunters are from neighbouring Mozambique.

Parks authorities have stepped up armed patrols backed by helicopters and drones but said stiff sentencing was also needed to halt poachers.

Rhino horns are sought after for their medicinal demand for rhino horn in China, Thailand and Vietnam. Rhino horn is used in these countries to treat everything from rheumatism to devil possession to a hangover.

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