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The BBC's Greg Barrow in Johannesburg
"This is the heaviest sentence a South African court has ever handed down to a poacher"
 real 28k

Thursday, 23 December, 1999, 17:10 GMT
Ivory poacher gets record sentence

African elephant A ban on ivory sales has stemmed the slaughter of elephants

A South African court has handed down its heaviest ever sentence for a man convicted of killing an elephant in the Kruger National Park.

Shalate Khoza was sentenced to 20 years in prison after he was found guilty of killing a bull elephant and hacking off its tusks.

He was found to be carrying an automatic rifle, ammunition and a quantity of elephant meat.

When he later led the wardens to the elephant carcass, its 65kg (145 pound) tusks had been removed.

Khoza is already serving a 10 year sentence for killing a black rhino in Kruger Park. The two sentences will run concurrently.

tusks Ivory smuggling has gone down since the 1989 ban
Conservation groups welcomed the sentence, saying stiff penalties were needed to protect the continent's endangered wildlife.

"We can only applaud the fact the court has handed down a harsh sentence... we welcome any deterrent to would-be poachers," said Sarah Scarth, the director of the South African branch of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

Correspondents said that ivory poaching is relatively rare in South African game parks, although local people snare wild animals for their meat.

The total ban on ivory sales, imposed in 1989, is widely credited with stemming the slaughter of Africa's elephants.

There is a growing lobby in Africa for the ban on ivory sales to be removed.

However, IFAW says poaching in South Africa would worsen if the country went ahead with its controversial plan to auction about 28 tonnes of ivory next year, after similar one-off sales to Japanese buyers this year by Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

The three countries say the proceeds from the sales are being ploughed back into conservation projects but many environmentalists claim a fresh supply of ivory on the market will be like a red rag for poachers.

Park spokesman William Mabasa said that heavily armed poachers were also a threat to wardens and tourists, and needed to be treated as dangerous criminals.

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See also:
16 Jul 99 |  Africa
Japan imports African ivory
08 Sep 99 |  Africa
A jumbo-sized dilemma in Zambia
31 Jul 99 |  Africa
Kenya seizes large ivory stash
18 Mar 99 |  Sci/Tech
Shoot an elephant, save a species
22 Nov 99 |  Africa
Surge in Zimbabwe elephant poaching
10 Feb 99 |  Sci/Tech
The allure of ivory

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