Farmer loses 11 rhinos to poachers in six weeks

2012-11-05 00:00

IN 15 years, no rhinos were poached on a hunting farm outside Schweizer-Reneke in North West.

Six weeks ago, owner Braam van Greuning applied to the provincial Enviromental Affairs Department to sell a rhino.

Since then, 11 of the animals have been poached on the farm, four in the past week alone.

One that survived had six bullet wounds. It looks as if most of the animals were shot with AK47 rifles.

Terry Bengis of Outraged South Africa Citizens against Poaching (Oscap) has urged local Democratic Alliance MP Chris Hattingh to pressure Premier Thandi Modise to investigate officials in the department.

Bengis said in a letter to Hattingh that if the North West government did not institute a proper inquiry, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa should be obliged to put the department under the control of the central government “until corruption in all its forms has been rooted out”.

Bengis wrote that it was of extreme concern that the poaching began after the owner had applied for a permit under the Cites convention on endangered animals to move his rhinos and dehorn them.

She said there was “circumstantial evidence” of collusion between the provincial authority and the poachers.

She said the department has been under the spotlight in the National Asembly portfolio committee as being “under suspicion”.

Van Greuning said yesterday he didn’t know if there are yet more rhino carcasses on his 7 000 hectare farm. They are searching for two four-month-old calves whose mothers are missing. It is not known if these females were also killed.

“It is a crisis. It doesn’t matter who does it, but save the rhinos,” he said.

He found the first dead rhino bull shortly after seeking a sale permit. That one had not been dehorned.

“We found tracks in the veld and called in the police and North West nature conservation.

“A week later, another rhino was shot in the same camp.

“I told the police and nature conservation [officers] they could stay on the farm free, they had to do something. There was trouble coming,” he said.

“A week later, three more cows were shot. Their horns were removed and their eyes cut out. Shortly after, another two were shot. In the past week, four have been shot.”

Last week, Van Greuning received the permit he originally applied for.

He lays the blame at the door of North West Nature Conservation, especially the office at Vryburg, which he says “drags its feet” in authorising permits.

A total of 501 rhinos have been poached in South Africa this year.

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