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Eight NC rhinos slaughtered

MANHUNT: A massive search to track down poachers who killed eight white rhino on a farm just outside of Kimberley is currently under way. Picture: Facebook page of the farm owner

THE SLAUGHTER of eight white rhino, which were poached on a farm near Kimberley, has resulted in mass outrage and a combined effort from law enforcement, government and various other role-players to ensure that the culprits are brought to book.

In order to help protect the endangered species, the precise location of the farm where the carcasses were found, as well as exactly when the discoveries were made, has been withheld, while little additional information regarding the incidents has been made officially available other than a confirmation that an investigation is under way.

However, according to sources the first animal was found roughly a month ago. The remains of four more animals were discovered on the same farm on Thursday morning and another three were found, dehorned, on Friday.

This resulted in a massive search, with the SAPS, Hawks and Nature Conservation collaborating in an effort to track down the suspects. The police helicopter was also called in to assist with tracking down the poachers on Friday.

Police spokesperson, Captain Sergio Kock, said that the local Stock Theft Unit were among those looking into the matter, adding that the suspects are still at large.

“Police are investigating a case of rhino poaching after eight white rhino were shot, killed and had their horns removed on a farm near Kimberley,” Kock said. “No suspects have been arrested.

“However, police are requesting that anyone with information please contact Detective Warrant Officer Martin Coetzee on 082 494 3540.”

While reluctant to divulge too much information, the spokesperson for Nature Conservation in the Province, Lesego Pule, said that the department was outraged by these criminal acts and that it would be using every resource at its disposal to ensure that justice is done.

“It is with sadness and regret that I have to confirm this unfortunate incident,” Pule said on Saturday. “Yes, eight rhino have been killed and their horns removed.

“This happened just two days after MEC Tiny Chotelo lamented the increase in rhino poaching incidents in our Province during her budget speech last Tuesday.

“To say anything over and above this will be to compromise our investigations.”

Pule did, however, add that departmental enforcement and compliance officials were working with all the relevant stakeholders, including the Hawks and the SAPS on the case.

“All that I can say is that there shall be no mercy for the perpetrators,” added MEC Chotelo.

In April, the carcass of a young female white rhino was discovered on a farm just outside Kimberley . . . an apparent victim of poachers. The Hawks were called to the scene and found the remains of the endangered animal with horns still intact.

At the time, Hawks spokesperson, Lieutenant Philani Nkwalase, said that it appeared as if the rhino was wounded somewhere else a week earlier, before fleeing and eventually dying where she was found.

“She was found with a bullet wound to the front right shoulder and appears to have died approximately a week ago, as her body was in a decomposed state,” Nkwalase said, adding that an autopsy performed at the scene indicated a clear entry wound in the right shoulder and no exit wound.

Prior to the incident in April no cases of poaching had been reported in the Northern Cape in some time, with none recorded in the financial year that ended in March this year.

In October 2014, South African National Parks (SANParks) issued a tender to sell about 200 white rhinos, with the acting managing executive for conservation services, Howard Hendricks, confirming that private buyers had been approached.

Hendricks explained that the aim of these sales was to promote the establishment and growth of a secure and viable rhino population under private landowners, whose bids were subject to stringent requirements, including a habitat assessment and the submission of a security plan.

This came a year after the public protector was called in to investigate the sale of 260 rhinos by SANParks to three private hunting farms in the Northern Cape, following Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa’s, announcement in August 2013 that 500 rhinos from the Kruger National Park would be relocated in order to ensure their continued safety.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, more than 1 338 rhinos were killed in Africa last year, which is the highest number since the wave of poaching began in 2008. Of those, 1 175 were killed in South Africa, home to about 80 percent of the continent’s rhino.

Poachers in Africa have slaughtered nearly 6 000 rhinos since 2008, and some conservationists warn that the 25 000 or so remaining wild rhinos could be gone within a decade.