This ‘rhino court’ had 100 percent poacher convictions. Why was it closed?
By Laurel Neme - National Geographic
- In March 2017, Skukuza Regional Court was created to handle the hearing of poachers/ traffickers arrested in the environs of Kruger National Park (KNP).
- In the first year, 2 dedicated prosecutors with wildlife crime and organized crime experience, convicted 90 poachers.
- The success in the courtroom appeared to translate in decreased rhino poaching numbers in KNP.
- In August, 2019, a regional court administrator, Naomi Engelbrecht, bypassed usual decision making protocols, and ordered the Skukuza cases moved to a Mhala Regional Court, over 50 miles away.
- On April 22, 2020, an area High Court declared the Skukuza Court closing invalid and that Engelbrecht had acted improperly noting that she may have “stopped the regional court from sitting at Skukuza as a result of request by the ( accused poacher’s) attorneys.”
- Despite the ruling, the court has yet to open.
Part of a pattern?
Other suspicious circumstances
Wildlife Watch is an investigative reporting project between National Geographic Society and National Geographic Partners focusing on wildlife crime and exploitation. Read more Wildlife Watch stories here, and learn more about National Geographic Society’s nonprofit mission at nationalgeographic.org. Send tips, feedback, and story ideas to NGP.WildlifeWatch@natgeo.com.