Rhino horn butchers snuck into a game capture boma early yesterday to shoot and hack off the horns of a captive rhino calf and its mother in the flagship Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park in KwaZulu-Natal.
Four sources told TMG Digital that a gang of four gunmen tied up and overpowered an armed guard before shooting the rhino mother and calf‚ hacking off their horns and then disappearing into the night.
On Monday scores of visitors had flocked to the capture bomas to view 10 adult rhinos and five calves that were about to be sold at a public auction by Ezemvelo KZN Widlife.
The capture bomas‚ where animals are held behind sturdy wood-pole stockades‚ contained at least 20 rhinos — including several baby rhinos orphaned by recent poaching — along with dozens of other wild animals such as bufffalo‚ nyala and‚ hippo.
Initial reports suggest that the gunmen arrived at about 2am‚ then overpowering at least one armed guard before shooting and killing a rhino cow and calf that were sold to private buyers on auction earlier in the week.
Although no arrests have been reported yet‚ questions have been raised about the state of security measures at the capture bomas following a series of sweeping State financial cutbacks for Ezemvelo.
Ezemvelo didn’t respond immediately queries about the attack on the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi capture boma.
The incident follows a recent attack on orphan rhinos at the privately-owned Thula-Thula rhino orphanage in KwaZulu-Natal in March and the killing of a captive rhino at a Paris zoo two months ago.
More than a thousand wild rhinos were slaughtered by poachers nationwide last year. The unrelenting massacre of South Africa’s rhinos escalated sharply from 2008.