Worst year ever for poaching in province
The Eastern Cape is facing its worst year ever for rhino poaching, with the 19th animal killed on the Fish River Nature Reserve on Monday.
Experts are concerned about the increase in poaching, describing this year as the worst in the history of the province.
The carcass of an 18-year-old black rhino cow was found on the reserve near Grahamstown.
A 1½-year-old calf was found standing nearby.
Black rhinos are listed as critically endangered, with a total population of about 5 000.
The reserve has a total area of 45 000ha and has been operational since 1994.
It is a clustered conservation area comprising the Andries Vosloo Kudu Reserve, Double Drift Kudu Reserve and Double Drift Nature Reserve.
The reserve is managed by the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA) on behalf of the provincial government.
Environmental Affairs officials confirmed the rhino twas he 19th poached on an Eastern Cape game reserve this year, already an increase from last year’s 14 cases.
In the latest incident, the rhino was found at about 9am by a ranger.
Police spokeswoman Captain Mali Govender said the ranger noticed two rhinos, one on the ground and a calf standing nearby.
“On closer inspection, it was discovered that the one had been shot in the ribs. The rhino had not been dehorned , ” she said.
“It is suspected that the rhino was shot and managed to run away from the poachers.”
Although it was unclear when the shooting happened, it is thought to have occurred at the weekend.
The probe has been taken over by the Stock Theft Unit and Endangered Species Unit, which will liaise with the Environmental Affairs’ Green Scorpions.
Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism MEC Sakhumzi Somyo said they were working with stakeholders and remained committed to the protection of endangered species.
“These natural treasures are not only key to growing a thriving tourism industry in our province, but are also an important heritage which we would like future generations to experience,” he said.
“There are some who are committed to undermine our efforts. “Evil has never triumphed against good, and soon . . . we will catch the perpetrators of this cruelty in the act and ensure they face the consequences of their actions,” Somyo said.
Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa governance programme manager Morgan Griffiths said the ECPTA managed a large conservation estate, which was difficult to secure.
“A lot of this is to do with the success of combating poaching in the Kruger National Park,” he said.
“We are seeing a pattern of crime displacement as poachers are now looking for easier targets. “This has led to syndicates assessing and targeting Eastern Cape reserves.”
Griffiths said the spate of poaching was an increasing concern for reserves in the province.
“It means that these reserves have to up their game to protect their rhinos,” he said.
“These efforts are under way by our provincial and private reserves.”
In March, two black rhinos were poached on the Fish River Nature Reserve and three others – two adults and a calf – the next month.
In the same month, a ninemonth- old calf was orphaned on the Tam Safaris Game Reserve on the outskirts of Cradock, when two rhinos were killed by poachers.
Within the first six months of the year, 14 rhinos had been poached in the province already.
The incidents occurred on both private and state-owned reserves. Reserves that have been targeted include the Sibuya Game Reserve near Kenton-on-Sea, Tam Safaris, the eZulu Game Reserve between Bedford and Grahamstown, and the Oceana Beach and Wildlife Reserve outside Port Alfred.