Two suspected rhino poachers have died after their vehicle reportedly hit a goat as they fled park rangers in Zimbabwe.
The two men, Godfrey Makechemu and Charles Runye, were pronounced dead after the incident by staff at Beitbridge District Hospital. The crash occurred at the Bubye Valley Conservancy in Mazunga, Matabeleland South Province, not far from the country’s border with South Africa.
Rangers were tracking the men through the park when they attempted to flee. Makechemu and Runye then apparently attempted to flee in their car as the gamekeepers chased them, before they hit a goat and overturned.
Two others were in the car at the time, 41-year-old James Mauto and 35-year-old Celestino Shate, who both survived. They were charged with unlawful hunting of a specially protected animal in violation of the Parks and Wildlife Act.
According to The Chronicle, the footprints of the suspects suggest they were tracking rhino spoors, and a telescopic sight rifle was found in the car after the incident.
Mr Guwanda, court prosecutor, said:
Acting on a tip off, a police mobile unit saw the suspected poachers coming out of Bubye Valley Conservancy and heading towards a nearby Jopembe village and pursued them.
Zimbabwe: 2 suspected rhino poachers in Beitbridge died on admission to the hospital after they were involved in an accident while being pursued by police and game rangers during a high speed chase. I call that a result, except for the goat. Sam 👏🏻👏🏻https://t.co/E9r3kLN7N4
— Xpose Trophy Hunting (@XposeTrophyHunt) June 18, 2019
The court then heard how the suspects hastily got in their Toyota Wish car and sped off. However, while in the process of fleeing the authorities, the car reportedly ‘hit a stray goat’. The driver lost control of the car, it veered off the road and then overturned.
Police arrived to find the four suspects still inside the car, though they failed to give a ‘satisfactory response’ before their arrest. Makechemu and Runye died upon admission to hospital, while Mauto and Shate survived.
The Bubye Valley Conservancy is currently experiencing an increased threat of poaching. Just last month, two suspected poachers were allegedly killed in a shootout with park rangers defending the animals and area.
Tinashe Farawo, a spokesperson for National Parks, said the loss of life was ‘unfortunate’, but the ‘officers had no option’, saying National Park authorities have a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to poaching.
More than six people, including a park ranger, have died at Bubye Valley Conservancy – also known as Mazunga Ranch – during shoot-outs, according to The Herald.
The two remaining suspects, Mauto and Shate, were remanded in custody, with their trial adjourned until June 28.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.