Poachers kill two more rhinos

2009-12-03 00:00

TWO more white rhino have fallen prey to poachers for their horns in Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife game reserves.

Police were this week also called to investigate the death of another white rhino found — with its horns intact — at Nagle Dam, which is situated in a private game reserve under the control of Msinsi Holdings.

However, sources told The Witness yesterday that a postmortem carried out on the carcass established conclusively that the rhino died of injuries sustained in a fight with another rhino.

The cow’s eight-month-old calf was captured and was due to be taken to EKZNW’s Imfolozi game reserve in northern KZN yesterday where there is a boma suitable for raising orphaned rhino calves.

Meanwhile, EKZNW spokesman, Jeff Gaisford confirmed yesterday that rangers at Opathe Heritage Park discovered a fresh white rhino carcass in the reserve — which is not open to the public — on Sunday.

The animal’s horns had been removed.

He said investigations involving the SA Police Service are currently underway.

Gaisford also confirmed that the skull of a white rhino believed to have fallen to poachers was discovered in the Masinda section of Imfolozi park on Saturday during a routine patrol by game rangers.

He said the horns had been “carefully removed”, but there was no sign of the remainder of the skeleton of the animal, indicating that it died some time ago.

“Hyenas most likely carried the head away, so we are not certain exactly where the animal died.”

“The skull has been sent away for forensic testing to establish if there is a bullet that can be retrieved.”

He said Masinda is an extremely rugged section of the game reserve, in the central area of the park.

Imfolozi and Opathe have had the highest incidence of rhino poaching in KZN since the beginning of last year.

On August 26, rangers at Imfolozi made a breakthrough on ongoing poaching in the reserve when they captured four men red-handed in possession of two freshly hacked-off rhino horns as well as a firearm in their vehicle.

The men, who were granted bail of R10 000 each, are due to appear in court again at the end of January.

The seriousness of the poaching problem was highlighted at their recent bail hearing by EKZNW wildlife crime investigator, Rod Potter, who called the increase in rhino poaching in the province and countrywide “alarming”.

According to a recent report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the wildlife trade monitoring network, Traffic, rhino poaching worldwide is on the increase.

“The trade is being driven by Asian demand for horns and is made worse by increasingly sophisticated poachers, who now are using veterinary drugs, poison, crossbows and high-calibre weapons to kill rhinos,” the report states.

Since 2006, 95% of the poaching in Africa has occurred in Zimbabwe and South Africa, according to new data.

“These two nations collectively form the epicentre of an unrelenting poaching crisis in southern Africa,” said Tom Milliken of Traffic.

The report states that the situation is worst in Zimbabwe where there is only a three percent conviction rate of poachers.

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