Poachers breach security and kill 2 rhinos at iMfolozi wildlife game pens

2017-05-27 08:16
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Durban - An attack by poachers at Zululand's flagship iMfolozi game reserve has left two white rhinos dead at the park's wildlife holding pens.

This comes two weeks after the mid-May incident that saw nine rhino mowed down by poachers.

The attacks happened in the early hours of Friday.

According to a reliable source, both rhinos were shot at point-blank range with a high-calibre rifle. It is not yet clear how the intruders managed to breach security at the bomas, and evade detection, despite rumours that security guards had been threatened at gun-point.

An investigation was reportedly underway on Friday. However, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW) spokesperson and security officials refused to confirm the latest mortalities.

The incident, which left a cow and a calf dead, comes just days after Ezemvelo held its bi-annual wildlife auction at the park's bomas on Monday.

It is believed that a well-known animal trader had paid R520 000 for the pair that was killed.

Ezemvelo CEO, Dr David Mabunda, told News24 that he is aware of the attack but does not have further details.

"All I have received is a text message to say we lost animals in the boma."

'Crisis' 

Allegations of gross negligence and a complete disregard of the urgency to protect the province's rapidly dwindling rhino population have been levelled at politicians and bureaucrats.

After the wildlife conservation authority's budget was cut by treasury, wildlife bosses have been boot-strapped and unable to fill critical gaps and vacant ranger posts.

"KZN is facing a crisis," said Ann McDonnell, DA’s spokesperson on Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs. 

"This is an indictment against MEC [Sihle] Zikalala and his senior officials. Despite an increased budget having been passed, changes in political leadership and the Ezemvelo Board has brought the recruitment process to a grinding halt, leaving our rhino without the first and most effective line of defence – foot soldiers.

"Another critical factor is the 900 odd vacant posts that currently exist within KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife – many of them for rangers," she said.

The DA's provincial leader Francois Rodgers said the attacks pointed to a total security meltdown at Ezemvelo.

"It also indicates there being far too much inside information getting out, and raises the very real possibility that poachers are receiving information from insiders and staff on Ezemvelo's payroll.

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that Ezemvelo has a major security problem," he said.

"It's time the government clamped down and showed arrests and resultant prosecutions in what’s now become a blatant form of terrorism against our rhino and biodiversity. It is not about catching the small guys, but we should be trying to catch the masterminds behind this criminal activity or risk losing the entire rhino population," Rodgers added.

A retired former head ranger at the reserve - who requested anonymity - said this incident "would haunt Ezemvelo as an organisation for years to come.

"To protect our rhinos and biodiversity, I urge Ezemvelo to engage in a meaningful partnership with the private sector," he said.

According to an Ezemvelo statement, this latest incident brings to total 99 rhinos that have been killed in the province in 2016. Thirty-three rhinos were killed in May, an increase of more than 50% of rhinos killed over the same period in 2016.

A total of 162 rhino were reportedly killed in KZN in 2016, an increase from 115 in 2015.

In the late 1800s, there were just 50 to 100 Southern white rhinos left in the world (all of them in the Imfolozi Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal). 
 
Due to the conservation work of the former Natal Parks Board and game rangers like the late Dr Ian Player and Nick Steel, this remnant population multiplied steadily. However, due to an unsustainable demand from Asia, especially Vietnam and China, the last viable populations of the pre-historic species are facing their gravest threat in 100 years.


Read more on:    durban  |  rhino poaching

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