Rhino killings toll rises to 10

Two animals found shot dead near Grahamstown, one wounded

TWO black rhino – a mother and calf – have been shot dead and a third wounded in the latest poaching incident in the Eastern Cape. The slaughter, on a farm outside Grahamstown yesterday, brings the total of rhino killed in the province since the beginning of the year to 10, with five of them killed last month alone.

Black rhino, with a total population of about 5 000 – about a quarter of the white rhino population – are listed as critically endangered.

Experts have warned that the increase in poaching in the province is due to the poachers seeking lesssecure reserves than the Kruger National Park.

The rhino cow and her calf were spotted from the air by a pilot, who was on a game-capturing exercise on the Great Fish River Nature Reserve shortly after 8am.

The reserve – owned by the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA) – is a clustered conservation area comprising the Andries Vosloo Kudu Reserve, Double Drift Kudu Reserve and Double Drift Nature Reserve, about 35km from Grahamstown.

The three rhino were shot on the Andries Vosloo Kudu Reserve.

Eastern Cape police spokesman Colonel Sibongile Soci said a chopper pilot flying over a herd of buffalo at a game farm had spotted the two dead rhino at about 8.30am.

ECPTA chief executive Vuyani Dayimani declined to comment, referring all questions to Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism MEC Sakhumzi Somyo.

Somyo confirmed last night that three rhino had been shot with a hunting rifle, not darted as in previous poaching incidents, with one rhino surviving.

The condition of the wounded rhino was being monitored.

“We are all deeply saddened by this latest poaching incident in our province,” Somyo said.

“Our team of the Green Scorpions and other authorities have been deployed to the farm.

“The team is working around the clock to find the culprits and to find ways of securing these animals. The police and other authorities have all been roped in to assist with the investigation.”

The exact time of the shooting is not known but it is thought to have occurred within the previous two days.

Indalo Group intelligence coordinator Rodney Visser said the poachers were “ruthless killers” with no regard for the law or life.

“These criminals have been targeting KwaZulu-Natal, Namibia and the Eastern Cape on an unprecedented scale during the first three months of this year,” Visser said.

“The intensity of the onslaught is ever-increasing as criminal groups are moving away from intensely protected rhino reserves in and around Kruger and Mpumalanga.

“We do not refer to criminals killing rhino as poachers – the word poachers does not adequately describe their gruesome actions,” Visser said.

“These criminals operate under a veil of darkness with the specific intention to kill.

“Private rhino owners suffered losses in five of the six attacks this year.”

Visser said several reserves in the province had been on high alert since the spate of attacks. Last week, two white rhino were found dead at Sibuya Game Reserve, near Kenton-on-Sea.

A third rhino, a bull, survived the savage attack, which blinded him, but he died later on the game farm.

On Tams Safaris in Cradock about two weeks ago, a ninemonth-old calf was orphaned after its pregnant mother and sibling were slaughtered.

In April, an adult bull – estimated to be about 15 – was found dead on Tam’s reserve after also being darted and de-horned.

A 15-year-old rhino cow was found dead on the Oceana Beach and Wildlife Reserve on the outskirts of Port Alfred in late January, while, earlier that month, a rhino was found dead on the eZulu Game Reserve between Bedford and Grahamstown.

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