TRESPASSER SHOT DEAD BY RANCHER IN NEW CALEDONIA POACHING INCIDENT

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NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (May 25, 2001 - Oceania Flash/SPC)---A 23-year-old man was shot dead near the village of Poya (about 150 kilometers/90 miles north of Nouméa, East Coast of the main island) on Tuesday by a farm owner on whose property the intruder was believed to be poaching cattle, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

The tragedy occurred at around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, on the 2,800-hectare (7,000 acre) property owned by Claude Metzdorf, who has about 7,000 livestock.

Metzdorf said he was watching television with his wife when he heard his dogs bark. He immediately took a flashlight, his shotgun and rushed to the gates of his property with his pick-up truck.

A poachers’ car came on the scene a short while later, with three young men inside. They were transporting a young bull they had just killed, the paper said.

Thierry Guichard, a service station employee, reportedly came out of the car and allegedly was shot in the forehead.

Both the alleged poachers and the property owner then called the police, who found them in a state of shock.

Police are currently detaining and interrogating Metzdorf, in his fifties.

Metzdorf said he had pulled the trigger "accidentally" after he had intercepted the young man by barring the road with his pick-up truck.

Reactions from the local community, however, seemed to express no shock or surprise.

"It was bound to happen sooner or later," a woman told the newspaper.

"Not one week goes by without poachers coming to kill cattle in one farm or another."

"What happened is terrible. But we can’t stand poaching anymore," another farmer said.

"We’ve been trying to warn authorities for a long time," farmers union President Franck Bonnard said.

He said he regretted the tragedy, but also said that nothing had so far been done to curb the rising poaching at territorial cattle farms.

"It’s not even poaching any more. This is plain theft and courts should see it like this."

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