THE fight to save Eastern Cape rhino from poachers stepped up a gear this week after two more animals were killed near Graaff-Reinet.
Seven rhino have been slaughtered in the province since January and alarm bells are ringing that the death toll could eclipse last year’s record 15 kills if nothing is done soon.
The latest killings at Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve, where a pregnant rhino and a young male were killed on Tuesday, is the third incident in the park in less than a year, despite increased security.
Heartbroken Iain Buchanan, whose family own the reserve, said yesterday the incident had galvanised neighbours to fight the poachers together. “The strategy is for three game reserves to join forces and make it difficult [to poach]. We want to secure the area as an impenetrable safe haven.”
According to organised crime and poaching experts the Eastern Cape is increasingly being targeted by professional, well financed and equipped syndicates who are being displaced from hotspots like the Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga and parts of Limpopo by increased law enforcement.
Hawks national spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi this week confirmed specialised anti-rhino poaching teams had been sent to the province to try and stop displaced syndicates from getting a foothold here and in the Northern Cape.
Rodney Visser, a former Hawks East London organised crime colonel working with the Wilderness Foundation to save local rhino, said the only way to do this was for everyone to work together.