Copter theory as sophisticated poachers strike

TWO Eastern Cape rhinos are lucky to be alive after a “highly organised” poaching incident this week in which the animals were apparently darted before having their horns “surgically” removed.

In the first poaching incident in the Eastern Cape this year, two white rhinos from the Schotia Safari Game Reserve, outside Port Elizabeth, had their horns “carefully” sawn off , leaving no injury to the animals.

Authorities yesterday said the rhinos, a mating pair known as Bonnie, aged eight, and Clyde, aged nine, were in “good health” following the incident.

According to legislation, the incident is still classified as poaching and illegal hunting, even if the animals were not killed. The 2013 national total tally of poached rhinos now stands at 369.

Enraged farm owner Peter Bean said the alert was raised on Tuesday after rangers failed to spot the rhinos during game drives through the park.

“We saw the one rhino at about 5pm on Thursday and it was missing its horn. We had been looking for them since Tuesday and now we know they must have been lying in the bush somewhere.

“It appears they were darted, drugged and their horns taken off,” he said.

Bean said an unidentified helicopter was spotted at about 7.30pm on Wednesday and could possibly have been linked to the incident.

Officials from the Hawks unit said because of poor visibility forensic experts had arrived on the scene only yesterday to gather evidence.

“It was getting dark at the time so visibility was an issue. By about 8pm the second rhino was found, ” Bean said.

“We have to scour the area in an attempt to gather forensic evidence.”

Once both rhinos had been found, wildlife vet Dr William Fowlds darted them to conduct a medical examination.

“Both these rhinos are extremely fortunate to be alive. Treatment of their damaged horn bases is expected to be successful but what is uncertain at this stage is how much internal trauma they have sustained due to the extended period they would have been lying down under potent anaesthetic drugs.

“In previous cases this has led to death weeks and sometimes months later. Both rhinos have some trauma to their eyes which is being monitored.”

By late yesterday, police had still not found any trace of the darts used.

The Environmental Affairs Green Scorpions confirmed that they were aware of the incident and were assisting police with the case.

National Hawks spokesman Paul Ramoloko said little information was available at this stage but confirmed a case of poaching was under investigation and that officers on the scene were attempting to piece the puzzle together.

The Environmental Affairs Department yesterday issued a statement saying that if rhino poaching continued at this rate it could possibly exceed last year’s record high of 668 poachings. Most killings took place in the Kruger Park. A PORT Elizabeth man was critically injured after being stabbed in the neck by two robbers who broke into his Malabar home early yesterday.

Police say details remain sketchy as the man is fighting for his life at Livingstone Hospital.

Police spokesman Captain Stanley Jarvis said the robbers stabbed the man in the neck, ribs and abdomen. He said the men stole valuables before fleeing.

“The wounded man managed to crawl to the phone and alert the police,” he said.

Jarvis said the man’s details were still unknown by last night.

A case of attempted murder was opened. No arrests had been made.

is a version of an article that appeared in the print edition of the Weekend
Post on Saturday, June 1, 2013.

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