Famous rhino brutally killed

2009-07-28 00:00

JOHANNESBURG — Toliwe, South Africa’s best-known white rhino, and seen, amongst other things, in a Cell C commercial, has become the latest victim of poachers.

The carcass of the white rhino was found last weekend with six bullet wounds. Its horn had been sawn off only halfway.

Toliwe had been living in Mount Savannah, a nature reserve in the Cradle of Mankind for the past seven years.

Toliwe’s owner, Rob Dickerson, said yesterday that the rhino was probably still alive while the poachers tried to saw off its horn. They probably got a fright and fled when a heavily wounded Toliwe tried to get up at some point, Dickerson said.

Willie Joubert, a co-owner of Mount Savannah, said Toliwe, which had a massive horn, bled to death over a period of “a few days”. “It’s terrible. It is very, very sad. We are all very shocked.”

Joubert said Toliwe arrived at Mount Savannah from KwaZulu-Natal as a little calf about seven years ago and was reared by hand. It is uncertain what happened to its mother at the time.

Dickerson said Toliwe is the Zulu word for “a baby found in the veld”.

“Toliwe was so tame that he would approach when he saw people or vehicles. He even allowed people to stroke him.”

People flying over Mount Savannah in a light aircraft at the weekend spotted the carcass from the air and informed Joubert. The police forensic unit removed two bullets from Toliwe’s carcass.

Besides the wounds from these two bullets there were also four other bullet wounds. Dickerson suspects that the poachers used a .234 rifle with a silencer to shoot Toliwe.

”I’m shattered,” he said. He now also fears for the lives of his other three rhinos in the reserve.

Toliwe can still be seen in episodes of the TV programme Wild at Heart, which is being broadcast on the BBC channel.

Krugersdorp police station spokesman Captain Jacob Raboroko has confirmed that a case has been opened in terms of stock theft legislation. He said the West Rand stock theft unit would be investigating the case.

No one has yet been arrested in connection with the incident.

This is the second rhino in a month to have been killed by poachers in the area. A white rhino was shot and killed in the Krugersdorp game reserve about a month ago.

Dickerson says there is a large reward — at least R20 000 from his own pocket — for anyone with information about the poachers.

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