When the South African Defense Force recently deployed units of heavily armed soldiers in the Kruger National Park, the country’s largest and most famous nature reserve, to stem the epidemic slaughter of rhinos, some conservationists predicted that this would push the poachers to attack smaller, less well protected national parks and wildlife reserves. Unfortunately, their concerns appear to be well founded.
In the early hours of Saturday morning, staff at the Aquila Private Game Reserve, located about 130 kilometers from Cape Town, discovered a badly injured white rhino bull affectionately known as Absa with his front horn removed. Evidently the poachers were busy trying to remove the animal’s second horn, but must have been surprised by the game rangers and fled the scene before they could be arrested.
Absa, who was the first rhino to be reintroduced into the Western Cape Province after the species was entirely hunted out in the region some 250 years ago, had clearly lost a lot of blood, but survived the attack. According to the veterinarian who attended to the animal, he is no longer in a critical condition.
Tragically, a second rhino, Absa’s six-year-old male offspring was subsequently found dead nearby. Both of his horns had been hacked off with machetes and a chainsaw. You can look at gruesome pictures of Absa and his butchered son here, but be warned they are not for the faint-hearted! A third rhino, a four-year-old female, was also found to have been shot with tranquilizer darts, but was not dehorned and remained otherwise unharmed.
All the evidence suggests that the poachers were professionals using sophisticated equipment. They were able to hit all three rhinos with perfect shots in the dark and used modern darts charged with a tranquilizer that is only accessible to veterinarians and by law has to be stored in a locked safe.
The international trade in rhino horn is driven by the extremely high prices paid for the material on the black market in the Far East. Until those prices drop or local authorities are able to effectively clamp down on the syndicates running the trade, chances are that the brutal slaughter of rhinos in South Africa will continue.
Andreas is a book shop manager and freelance writer in Cape Town, South Africa. Follow him on Twitter: @Andreas_Spath
Photo from: Stock.Xchng