Two vets in dock over rhino poaching

2012-06-14 00:00

PRETORIA — Several animal rights activists crammed into the Pretoria North Regional Court where two veterinarians and a professional hunter appeared yesterday.

The accused are among eight people arrested last year on charges relating to the possession and distribution of a tranquillising drug commonly used by rhino poachers.

Charges against five of the suspects were withdrawn in April, reportedly due to insufficient evidence.

The three accused include Dr Douw Grobler, an animal conservation expert and formerly head of wildlife capturing and veterinary services at the Kruger National Park. He was charged with private vet Dr Johannes Gerhardus Kruger, and professional hunter and animal farmer Hugo Ras.

It is alleged that the group contributed to rhino poaching by supplying a poaching syndicate with tranquillisers. The M99 drug, also called etorphine, was allegedly used to dart rhinos to enable the removal of their horns. The matter was postponed to June 19.

Activists said they would closely follow the case until its conclusion.

Pretoria-based animal rights group — Outraged SA Citizens Against Poaching (Oscap) — said government must urgently improve awareness of poaching.

“Much of the awareness has now been left up to the NPOs [non-profit organisations]. We expect the government to hold constant, massive awareness campaigns to communicate the problem,” said Oscap director Allison Thomson.

“They need to speak to all their counterparts. We want government to talk to its partners, like China and others.”

Meanwhile, in the Eastern Cape, a rhino yesterday gored a game warden in the stomach and chest. He was stabilised in Cradock and taken to a hospital in Port Elizabeth.

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