‘Trading illegally, a gram of rhino horn is worth more now than a gram of cocaine or even a gram of gold’
THREE black rhino – two adults and a calf – were found dead in the second poaching incident at the same nature reserve in the Eastern Cape in just two weeks.
The slaughter occurred in the Great Fish River Nature Reserve near Grahamstown, managed by the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency. The latest incident brings the total number of rhino killed in the province since the beginning of the year to 13, with five killed last month alone.
Black rhino, with a total population of about 5 000, are listed as critically endangered.
The reserve has a total area of 45 000 hectares 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.
According to provincial police spokeswoman Colonel Sibongile Soci the carcass of an adult black rhino was discovered at about 7am yesterday by the head ranger of the reserve who had been flying a fixed-wing aircraft.
“While officials were conducting their investigation, a second rhino, a calf, was also discovered. Both rhinos were dehorned and appeared to have been shot,” Soci said.
She said a third rhino carcass was found while specialist investigators were still on the scene.
Last night, ECPTA chief executive Vuyani Dayimani said his office was restricted from commenting on the matter and referred all questions to Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism MEC Sakhumzi Somyo.
Somyo could not be reached despite repeated attempts.
Last month two black rhino – a mother and calf – were shot dead and a third was wounded on the reserve.
Earlier last month two white rhino were found dead at Sibuya Game Reserve, near Kentonon-Sea. A third rhino, a bull called Bingo, survived the savage attack, which blinded him, but he died later on the game farm.
Leading conservationist and Wilderness Foundation chief executive Dr Andrew Muir said the spate of poaching incidents in the Eastern Cape was alarming and a result of “displacement” of poaching syndicates up north.
“As the Kruger and other reserves up north become more organised and put the necessary actions in place, poachers decide to go for easier pickings where security measures are not yet on the same level. So they move to other provinces such as the Eastern Cape.
“However, we already have private and state owners coming together and plans are being made. I am sure that together as owners, conservationists, NGOs and other stakeholders we can make the Eastern Cape resilient against these syndicates,” he said.
Muir described poaching syndicates as “highly organised” crews.
“Trading illegally, a gram of rhino horn is worth more now than a gram of cocaine or even a gram of gold. It is extremely lucrative and this is why we need to put up a united front against this global issue,” he said.