Hundreds of volunteers braved scorching heat, the stench of death and even a gun-toting illegal hunter to de-snare and clean up the Bisley Nature Reserve on Sunday. Last Tuesday, the carcasses of 12 animals killed by snares and those that had died of starvation were found littered across the park. The number rose to 19 on Sunday as more carcasses were found — 15 wildebeest, one antelope and three giraffe.Peter West, a concerned resident who is part of the Friends of the Bisley Nature Reserve group, said when they made the call for people to lend a hand, he had not expected that so many people would show up.West said people from as far as Durban and Howick joined in. He said they were working under the wing of the SPCA and were joined by people from UKZN, the 1st Hilton Cub and Scout Group, members of the army, a motoring club from Durban, pupils from local schools and families.“Our top priority is to keep the remaining animals alive. We also discovered in the bushes a bush meat butchery where they cut up the carcasses, put the meat on racks and drive around selling it.“We also found squatters who were living inside the park. They had mattresses, clothing, pots and food. We don’t know how many of them were there because by the time we got there they had run away,” he said.West said during the clean-up on Sunday, two volunteers came across a second camp of squatters and one of the men there took out a hunting rifle and pointed it at the volunteers.“Fortunately the volunteers managed to run away and came back to the base where they told us what happened. The police were called to the scene.”Doug Burden, a member of the Friends of the Bisley Nature Reserve group, gives the volunteers a breakdown of what was expected of them on Sunday.West said after removing the snares, their focus would be to replace the fencing along the R56 road and to bring back the animals roaming outside the reserve.“We are currently aware of nine giraffes outside the fence. A friend of mine who is a pilot volunteered to fly his helicopter and try to locate and drive the animals back into the reserve where there is food.”West said they would also be putting pressure on Msunduzi Municipality, who run the park, to come up with a proper plan to run the reserve.Justin Scott, one of the scouts, told The Witness that they made a horrific discovery of two wildebeest carcasses on Sunday morning.“We could smell the dead animal from like 20 metres away and one of the scouts, Ayanda, walked down there and said we must all come see the dead animal he found. There were maggots coming out of its eyes and you could see right through it, it wasn’t a nice thing to see,” said Scott.“The snare was still on its leg and two older guys came and removed the snares. The wire had been wrapped around the tree and you could see that the animal got caught there and it got tighter and tighter as it tried to get away,” said Scott.Dhiveshni and Cameron Moodley drove from Durban to Pietermaritzburg to lend a helping hand. Dhiveshni said she had seen the messages on her Youth Climate Council WhatsApp group.Martin Finch, from the 1st Hilton Cub and Scout Group, said they had about 18 scouts in the field on Sunday.“In our fast-paced environment many people choose to give in different ways but we chose to be on the ground as it enables our youth to get away from the operations of today, like cell phones and computers, and get to enjoy the outdoor environment with like-minded people,” he said.Mohamed Saeed, from the Nizamia Islamic School, said after reading about the pitiful conditions of the starved animals in the initial article last week in The Witness, he decided to raise awareness at his school.“Islam has taught us that in the eyes of Almighty, animals also have rights in the same way as humans have. They should not be ill-treated, tortured or left to starve without food or water. To this end, Nizamia Islamic School supports the good initiative of the SPCA and the Friends of Bisley Nature Reserve to provide special feed and water to these starved animals.”Mohamed said through the support from the pupils and the parent community, they managed to raise a good amount of money to provide some food for the starving animals until “Almighty blesses us with beneficial rains”.Former Msunduzi mayor Rob Haswell, who is a member of the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Board, thanked everyone who came to help on Sunday.“I think the turnout has been amazing. It’s been fruitful and heart-warming to see the interest. I think it’s just fantastic,” said Haswell.The initial discovery of the numerous carcasses at the park was first made on Tuesday when the SPCA visited the reserve following reports of a giraffe that had lost it leg after it was caught in a snare.On Sunday, West told The Witness that some of the volunteers came across the injured giraffe, which was painfully walking on bone after losing part of its leg, near the railway line along Richmond Road. The animal was put down on Sunday. “It’s important to say that this giraffe was not killed in vain. It was because of it that the other dead animals were discovered and that something is being done about that park,” said West.Msunduzi Municipality had reiterated to The Witness that the animals “died naturally and because of snares”.The City said it would be bringing in a vet to ascertain whether there are problems with the animals.