The Game Rangers Association of Africa has paid tribute to Anton Mzimba, the highly-regarded ranger murdered a few days before World Ranger Day.
Mzimba was the head of ranger services at the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve in the Greater Kruger National Park.
The anti-poaching ranger died after he and his wife were attacked by three suspects at their home in Edinburgh Trust, in Mpumalanga, last week Tuesday.
The association said Mzimba was one of 295 rangers who had been murdered on the continent since 2011. Between June 2021 and last month, the association recorded 100 ranger deaths, with 95 of them killed on duty.
The association called for a thorough investigation into the attack, saying it would show support for rangers who often live in fear of their safety, and would send a strong message to perpetrators, who are often “militia groups, terrorists and bandits”, that they will be held accountable.
To mark World Ranger Day on Sunday, the association said:
Anton was a leader in the African ranger community and his assassination marks a potential escalation in the lengths to which wildlife trafficking cartels will go to intimidate and discourage the conservation of rhinos, elephants and all of Africa’s natural heritage.
They are looking for three suspects who were driving a white VW Polo on the day of Mzimba’s murder.
News24 reported there were claims Mzimba was the target of a syndicate opposed to his anti-poaching efforts.
Mpumalanga police spokesperson, Brigadier Selvy Mohlala, would not speculate on the motive for the murder as the investigation was ongoing.
Mzimba’s wife was critically injured and was fighting for her life in hospital.
Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Barbara Creecy said Mzimba’s murder highlighted the threats faced by rangers and the need to protect them from crime syndicates.
She said: We are reminded of the threats that rangers face from poachers and their crime bosses on a daily basis. These are men and women that deserve our respect and support as we join hands to improve their safety.
Creecy said joint efforts by law enforcement had resulted in 69 suspected rhino poachers arrested between January and June this year.