Lowvelder ( South Africa )

Rhinos killed near restcamp

Two rhino carcasses found in close proximity to each other and a major public road may indicate a new level of audacity in the actions of poachers in the Kruger National Park.

August 24, 2018

MALALANE – The carcasses were found about 1,2 kilometres from each other, one last Thursday and the other last Friday, almost within sight of both Malalane Rest Camp and the Berg-en-Dal – Malalane Road (S110).

Evidence on the scenes suggests that the incidents took place within a day or two of each other and were probably executed by the same perpetrators.

These were the first poaching incidents in more than a year in that area.

Frik Rossouw, SANParks environmental crime-investigation services senior investigator, said on Tuesday that the second victim was an adult female white rhino with a calf of unknown age.

The latter was found alive when the carcass was discovered and removed by helicopter to a rehabilitation centre.

A routine forensic investigation of the scene was done by a team consisting of a SAPS detective and forensic investigator, as well as a tracker and environmental crime investigator.

Two spent cartridge cases were found on the second scene and one bullet was retrieved from the carcass. It seems the shot was fired from a .458 calibre firearm.

Both the animals’ horns were removed. Indications are that knives and an axe were used.

Due to scavengers that had already feasted on the carcasses, no tracks could be found, but according to Rossouw, other information gathered raises hope for a possible arrest.

He also told journalists accompanying the investigating team that a “smart fence”, that is one that would record any movement over it instead of just keeping animals in, would be a major help in the war against poaching.

Such a fence would, however, cost in the region of R1 million per kilometre.

Even that would only deter level-one poaching activities, since the perpetrators entering the park do so on command of levels three and higher.

In this regard Ike Phaala, media specialist of SANParks, said the organisation was highly pleased with a recent breakthrough when national parks and the Hawks arrested two so-called kingpins in June.

“We believe it will also lead to more arrests,” he said. “In the quest to curb poaching and arrest perpetrators, collaboration between the neighbouring countries is also of utmost importance.”

• Although not directly related to this incident, the MozParks Foundation announced on its Facebook page on Wednesday that its anti-poaching team at Sabie Game Park (in Mozambique) arrested a poacher armed with a silenced .375 rifle, ammunition and an axe. He also carried two changes of shoes to mislead tracking teams and enough food to last a few days.

MozParks Foundation was formed by the directors of Sabie Game Park and its associates to provide support to the private investors of wildlife conservation areas in their efforts to protect the conservation areas.