FIVE heavily armed poaching suspects were arrested after a gun battle in the heart of greater Pretoria as they were about to launch an attack on 13 rhinos in Rietvlei Nature Reserve.
The gunmen, one of whom is out on bail for the poaching a rhino in Potchefstroom earlier this year, were armed with an assortment of rifles and handguns fitted with silencers.
Ballistic analysis has linked the weapons to the deaths of two rhinos in Dinokeng Nature Reserve, north of Pretoria, two months ago.
Police from the Pretoria Flying Squad and Pretoria Dog Unit, reacting to a tipoff from the Hawks, spotted the suspects as they stopped next to Rietvlei Nature Reserve on Sunday night.
They searched the men after receiving a description of their vehicles, a Toyota Hilux and a Corolla. Both are believed to be stolen.
Hawks spokesman Captain Paul Ramaloko said the suspects were part of a larger poaching syndicate.
He confirmed that one of the suspects, aged 22, was out on bail.
"The men, who were arrested after a shootout, have been charged for being in possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition," he said. – Graeme Hosken