Rhino calf orphaned in strike by poachers

POOR BABY: Dr Donalyn Hennessey tends to a three-month-old rhino calf after its mother was killed next to it by poachers.
POOR BABY: Dr Donalyn Hennessey tends to a three-month-old rhino calf after its mother was killed next to it by poachers.

A THREE-MONTH-OLD rhino calf was orphaned at the weekend when its mother was killed in the latest poaching incident to hit the Eastern Cape.

The traumatised baby rhino stayed by its mother’s side until the carcass was found.

A R400 000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the poachers.

Last month, a nine-month-old calf was orphaned on the same game farm, Tam Safaris Game Reserve on the outskirts of Cradock, when two adult rhinos were killed by poachers.

The latest incident brings the number of rhinos killed in the province since the beginning of the year to 14. A 15th survived.

The death toll for the first four months of the year has already equalled the figure for the whole of last year.

On Saturday, the newly orphaned calf was transported to the Shamwari Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre for treatment.

Devastated reserve co-owner Peter Tam said the carcass of the dehorned white rhino cow was found on Friday night.

The attack is thought to have taken place sometime between Thursday night and Friday morning.

“We suspect it is the same poachers that struck last month,” Tam said.

“The modus [operandi] is very similar and, like the other poachings, she was darted.

“The carcass was found in the same vicinity as the last poaching, suggesting they came back.

“It is infuriating and we are now looking at alternative measures in addition to our current anti-poaching unit.”

The cow’s horn had been surgically cut off.

‘The calf . . . did not leave her mother’s side,” Tam said.

“We alerted the vet and a decision was made to sedate the calf and transport her to the rehab centre for treatment.”

Tam said late yesterday that the calf had calmed down and was drinking.

“She is visibly traumatised but is doing well at the rehabilitation

centre,” he said. “We are all holding thumbs and it looks positive for now.”

Tam hopes that offering the reward will have a positive outcome.

“Some of the most secure reserves with 24-hour patrols are being hit, so there is clearly nothing that deters these poachers,” he said.

“We have increased our security dramatically since the first incident and will continue to do what we can to protect our rhino.” The carcass and calf were found during a patrol. “We had done a patrol early on Friday morning but did not spot the rhino because of the low-lying bush,” Tam said.

“We patrolled most of the day and then found the carcass that evening and raised the alarm.”

This was the third poaching incident on the reserve this year alone.

Earlier this year, an adult bull, aged about 15, was found dead after it had been darted and dehorned.

“The No 1 issue at the moment for any rhino owner is whether keeping them on the farm is a viable option,” he said.

“We as private reserves are doing all we can but we need assistance from the government to ensure the safety of our animals.”

Experts have warned that the clampdown on poachers in the Kruger National Park has forced poaching syndicates to turn to the Eastern Cape.

Last week, three critically endangered black rhinos – two adults and a calf – were killed in the Great Fish River Nature Reserve near Grahamstown.

The Wilderness Foundation Africa has issued a R100 000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of rhino poachers operating in the Eastern Cape.

Anyone with information should contact the wildlife crime tip-off line, 078-696-9494.

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