Four rhino poached

GRAVELOTTE/PHALABORWA – Following the rhino poaching in January in the Guernsey area, another two rhino carcasses were discovered on a farm in the Gravelotte area and two more on Doreen Farm North of the Olifants River close to Phalaborwa.

According to Bert Howard, senior environmental officer for the Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism at Klaserie, two rhino that were shot and killed were found on Doreen Farm. Bert says the carcasses were found by Fanie Steyn, a Professional Hunter (PH) who was in the veld on a buffalo hunt with a client. The rhino were shot on Thursday or Friday last week and the horns had been removed, says Bert.

On Friday, April 1 a Protrack patrol discovered the hornless carcass of a female white rhino on a farm in the Gravelotte area along with another rhino carcass the following day, which still had its horns. Both rhino had been caught in snares.

What the anti-poaching unit noted as being out of the ordinary, was that both rhino had been in the snares for only about a day and a half to two days at most.

‘Normally a poacher sets his snares and only comes back after four or five days to check if something has been caught. We believe what happened is that the poacher came back and found the first animal semi-conscious but still alive and then killed it with an axe blow to the side of the head’ says Vincent Barkas, owner of Protrack.

‘Private land owners need to realise that the threat to rhino today comes as much from inside as it does from outside’ says Vincent.

‘The most significant feature of the Gravelotte rhino is that the animals were not shot. I believe syndicates are now approaching regular people from the local communities to tackle rhino’ says Vincent.

Vincent also believes that snare poachers are now turning to rhino poaching and says that this situation opens a whole new ‘can of worms’.
‘When there is a firearm involved it can be traced back to a person or a crime and an arrest can be made but anybody has access to a piece of cable and can set a snare. A piece of wire around an animal’s head does not leave us with much to build a case on’ ends Vincent.

According to Faan Coetzee, Project Executive – Rhino Security Project at the Endangered Wildlife Trust, this is the first time that a rhino is poached with a snare in Limpopo, although there have been various such cases in KwaZulu Natal.

These four killings bring the number of rhino poached in South Africa in 2011 alone to 104. That is more than a rhino a day.

Desiré Wright