Yet another rhino de-horned

2008-12-07 00:00

Rhino slaughter in KwaZulu-Natal’s wildlife reserves is continuing unabated, and yet another de-horned white rhino carcass has been discovered in Ezemvelo Wildlife’s Hluhluwe-Imfolozi game reserve.

The latest discovery — which was made little more than five weeks after an earlier incident — brings to 14 the number of rhino killed by poachers in the province so far this year. However, the circumstances in which the most recent rhino fell victim to poachers have been described as “somewhat unusual”.

Investigators have established the animal was not shot dead, but was most probably on the verge of dying from an injury suffered in a territorial fight with another rhino bull, when it was captured and de-horned.

Whether it was still alive when its horns were removed, is not certain. What is, is that the carcass was still fresh when the horns were chopped off. The rhino had also been cruelly cut on one of its hind legs with a sharp long-bladed knife, but the cut failed to penetrate deeply enough to sever the hamstring.

Rod Potter of the KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife Crime Working Group said the rhino — a mature bull — appeared to have collapsed on to the injured leg, indicating that the animal was very weak and unable to offer any resistance at that point.

Stock thieves have been known to cut the hamstrings of stolen cattle to immobilise them for slaughter.

When the rhino bull was found slain and de-horned last Tuesday (December 2) investigators had to piece together what had happened.

A serious, skull-penetrating head wound looked to the experts like an injury inflicted by another rhino, and a thorough examination of the rhino’s remains bears out that theory.

Potter said the weight of the animals and the extreme force they can exert during territorial battles is “incredible”.

“It’s not at all strange that the horn [of the opposing rhino] pierced the skull,” he said.

Although this indicates that the rhino was not poached in the usual way, the possibility that the same syndicate is involved has not been discounted.

Another of the rhino found to have been illegally hunted and de-horned this year at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi also sustained a cut to its hind leg, similar to that inflicted in the present case.

The number of rhino poached in KZN this year is unprecedented. Normally not more than one or two incidents occur per annum.

When contacted by The Witness yesterday, Ezemvelo media spokesman Jeff Gaisford confirmed the latest incident, but said he had no detailed information.

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