'Open season' for poachers

2010-07-15 09:36

Johannesburg - The last remaining adult rhino in the Krugersdorp game reserve has been killed for her horns.

The rhino's eight-month-old calf, which is still suckling from her, ran around in a daze afterwards, looking for her.

Japie Mostert, game warden and manager of the reserve, found the rhino's body late on Tuesday afternoon at a watering hole near the caravan park.

"Now you can kill me too, then everything is dead," an emotional Mostert said.

Tranquiliser dart

Two of the reserve's rhinos were poached in January and another in June last year.

Investigators on the scene said the nine-year-old cow was hit by a tranquiliser dart in the neck.

They believe she was already been dead when the poachers cut off her horns.

While investigators searched the scene for leads, the calf came looking for her mother twice.

Ed Hern from the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve, which has also lost rhinos to poaching this year, said on Wednesday that something drastic had to be done now.

He had heard that poachers had struck at several places in the country on Wednesday night and that a rhino had also been poached near Mafikeng.

Strike at different places at same time

"It is now open season. The poachers know we are looking for them. Now they strike at the same time at three different places. We are furious."

Hern said he had security guards who sat on the koppies of his farm day and night, watching his farm through reinforced binoculars.

His farm is next to the Lanseria airport.

Police spokesperson warrant officer Solomon Sibiya said no one had been arrested in connection with the latest incident.

"The police are following leads."

SANParks meanwhile said a Mozambican citizen had been arrested in the Kruger National Park on Monday night after he fired shots with a hunting rifle.

Game rangers searched the area but could find no carcass.

This came after four men were arrested at the Manyeleti dam on the western border of the game reserve on Saturday with fresh rhino horn in their possession.

Dr David Mabunda, SANParks's executive head said the conservation authority would "hunt down (rhino poachers and their) rich bosses in the bush, airports, cities and internationally".

Since the beginning of the year, 126 rhinos have been poached countrywide.