Five suspected rhino poachers were arrested in the Inkwenkwezi private game reserve on Sunday afternoon.
The men were arrested by members of the East London Dog Unit and Green Scorpions.
The arrests followed an anonymous tip off from a member of the public, Eastern Cape police said yesterday.
At the time of their arrests the five men aged between 26 and 46 were travelling in a silver grey Toyota Avanza with an Eastern Cape registration plate.
They were cornered on the East Coast resort road near Chintsa.
Inside the vehicle police recovered a hunting rifle with 15 rounds of ammunition, a home-made silencer, hacksaw, axe and a panga – tools which police said were used for poaching.
Provincial police spokeswoman Brigadier Marinda Mills said three of the five suspects were from Nelspruit in Mpumalanga and two from King William’s Town.
They were all detained in the Gonubie Police Station and police worked most of Sunday night gathering as much information on the suspects as possible.
They will appear in the East London Magistrate’s Court this morning on charges of illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition and conspiracy to commit a crime.
Graham Stanton, one of the owners of Inkwenkwezi, yesterday described the arrests as a “relief for the wildlife on the coast”.
“They had a homemade silencer and had they fired a shot with the rifle we would not have heard a thing,” he said.
“Mpongo private game reserve has lost all its rhinos due to poaching.”
He said poaching had a negative impact on tourism on the Wild Coast.
“We built the tourism industry about eight years ago. Then we had six buses carrying tourists from all over the world, today we have 80 buses coming in to see the big five during the year,” Stanton said.
Provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Liziwe Ntshinga said the wildlife of the province would not be stripped under her watch.
“I am also impressed with the good intelligence feed of information which allowed us to act before any harm could be done,” Ntshinga said.
By Zwanga Mukhuthu – DispatchLIVE