South African authorities are cracking down on rhino poachers – hoping longer sentences will deter others from killing the endangered animals.

As part of of this pattern, a poacher was sentenced to 77 years in prison last Tuesday; one of the longest sentences ever for the crime. Mandla Chauke, a South African, broke into the Kruger National Park in 2011 along with two others. They shot three rhinos and after patrolling rangers spotted them, were engaged in a firefight that left one poacher dead.

Chauke was caught, and despite trying to argue he was coerced into killing the animals by his accomplices, was convicted of murder, illegal hunting of rhinos, rhino horn theft, illegal possession of firearms and ammunition,  and trespassing in a national park.

“We hope that this will be a deterrent” to other poachers, said parks spokesman Reynold Thakhuli.

Earlier this month, two Mozambican poachers were sentenced to 16 years in prison for killing a rhino at the same park and taking its horn. In 2012 a Thai man got 40 years in jail for selling rhino horns.

The harsher approach is part of South Africa’s plan to try and protect rhinos, which are being killed faster than ever for their horns. Just last year, the country lost a record 1,004 rhinos to poachers and this year so far, 370 have been killed in Kruger Park alone.

The issue of poaching has been a priority to activists who have taken measures such as airlifting them to safety and microchipping in order to protect them. World leaders have also showed concern for the problem with the state of New York banning all sales of ivory products and rhino horns and Prince William promoting a campaign to end the killing of the innocent animals.

Rhino Poacher Sentenced to 77 Years in Prison | Ecorazzi.