Rhino farms ‘impossible to protect’

2011-08-12 00:00

A 15-YEAR-OLD pregnant white rhino cow named Stompie became the 20th rhino to be cruelly killed for her horns by poachers in KwaZulu-Natal this week.

The incident happened at the private Kwaggashoek game ranch near Bergville.

Stompie’s despairing owner, Willie van der Merwe, told The Witness he no longer wants to keep rhinos on his property because no matter what he does he cannot protect them.

“At this stage I am thinking it’s just not worth the trauma.”

Van der Merwe said the rhino cow had been named Stompie because her horn broke during her initial capture and relocation to the game ranch. It grew back over the past six to seven years, but remained blunt.

He lost not only the cow but also the five-month-old, almost fully formed male foetus she was carrying. The rhino cow died barely a hundred metres from the homes of some of the game reserves employees.

“When they stepped out of their door on [Wednesday] morning the carcass was lying there,” Van der Merwe said.

He said no sounds had alerted the staff and no evidence had been found of a gunshot wound.

It was likely the rhino had been darted some distance away and pursued to the spot where she fell and her horn was chopped off.

He said the animal did not die humanely but suffocated to death as a result of the manner in which she fell, and it was possible she was alive when the horns were removed.

A post-mortem found evidence of “lung trauma”.

The use of sophisticated drugs to immobilise rhinos prior to their dehorning is usually indicative of a syndicate operation.

Further tests will be carried out to determine the type of drugs used.

Members of the Hawks wildlife investigations section are investigating the incident.

If anyone has information that could help police, call Warrant Officer Riaan van Rooyen at 082 448 5319.

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