Vets treat two rhinos injured in poaching attack

2013-10-04 00:00

A VETERINARY team was yesterday assessing injuries sustained by two Weenen rhinos that survived an attack by poachers this week.

The poachers are thought to be part of a new type of syndicate operating in the area which is suspected to be using the drug M99 to immobilise their prey.

Five rhinos are believed to have been killed by an overdose of the drug in the Weenen reserve since last week.

A sixth rhino found dead — but with its horns intact — was thought to have died of natural causes, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW) spokesperson Musa Mntambo said yesterday.

The two surviving rhinos were found this week running around bleeding with their front horns removed.

Mntambo said a team of veterinarians was at the game reserve yesterday to assess to condition of the two surviving rhinos, which had been found “running round bleeding with their horns neatly removed, with a sharp object like a saw”.

He said a lot would depend on the veterinarians’ assessment of the wounds suffered by the rhinos.

According to EKZNW veterinarian Dr Dave Cooper, a number of rhinos have survived such incidents in the past. However, he said it was critical that the wounds were properly cleaned and any foreign fragments or objects removed to prevent infection.

The rhinos would be treated with antibiotics before being released into the bush.

However, if the wounds were too deep, the rhinos will be kept in bomas at Hluhluwe iMfolozi park where they could be monitored daily.

According to a report by EKZNW rhino intervention co-ordinator Cedric Coetzee, it was suspected the five rhinos killed by poachers had died of an overdose of the M99 drug.

Forensic investigations will be carried out to determine whether this was the drug used and if it was the cause of the animals’ death.

“This is very different poaching to anything else we’ve experienced.

“While these losses have hit us hard, at this stage there appears no brutality in evidence.

“There were no axes or gunshot wounds. We just found evidence that the horns were removed by a saw,” said Coetzee.

Coetzee said while forensic investigations had only just begun, it appeared as if the poachers wanted to keep these rhino alive while removing their horns.

The next three days would establish greater insight into the incidents as tissue and fluid samples had been taken.

Last month rhinos at Tembe and Ndumo had their horns treated with poison and indelible dye as part of a trial programme. Asked if EKZNW’s remaining rhino population would receive similar treatment, Coetzee said the outcome of the Tembe- Ndumo pilot project would determine if the project would be extended to other game reserves.

Mntambo said that 70 rhinos have been killed by poachers in KwaZulu-Natal to date this year.

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