The year has barely started and already almost 100 rhinos have been killed by poachers. As before, most of the slaughter has occurred in the Kruger National Park. In March the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) will take place in Bangkok, Thailand. South African Water and Environmental Affairs' Minister Edna Molewa will most certainly bring the matter of rhino poaching to the fore. Furthermore, 21 arrests have been made this year.
Three Chinese nationals were arrested in Johannesburg after the Hawks received a tip-off, informing them that the three were in possession of rhino horn and tik. In Limpopo, three poachers were arrested at Nwanedi Game Reserve in Tshamatumbu. They fled initially, but were caught at their homes in Mosodi Village with an unlicensed .303 hunting rifle, which was confiscated. Meanwhile, in the Kruger Park, three poachers were shot dead and a fourth critically injured. The fifth member of the party escaped. The poachers were intercepted by park rangers on patrol and found in possession of two hunting rifles, an AK47, a pistol and ammunition. These were confiscated along with a rhino horn and other poaching equipment, which was also in the poachers' possession.
In January a rhino calf was brutally attacked after poachers killed her mother. The poachers were busy removing the mother's horn and the distressed baby tried to return to her mother, whereupon she was attacked, receiving 18 lacerations across her face. Luckily she survived, was rescued and is now healing well. Last weekend two more rhinos were killed and dehorned and another one injured on a farm in the North West.
Through the work of RhinoProtect, Inverdoorn's rhinos have remained protected and last year the game reserve welcomed Bundu and Livina, two calves orphaned as a result of poaching. They are the first calves, hopefully of many, to be rescued by RhinoProtect and provided sanctuary at Inverdoorn. They have grown accustomed to their home and become stronger every day. Their handlers used to climb into the enclosure with them during feeding time; but they are becoming stronger and more volatile every day. Just as a calf will nudge its mother during feeding, so they may nudge their handlers as they finish their food. As they become bigger and stronger, being nudged over by the two rhinos is not a fun prospect. Livinia is still the more temperamental of the two, but she is a lot calmer and the calves become more and more like sister and brother every day as they shove and snort at each other. They have voracious appetites and guzzle their food quite happily twice a day.
Bundu and Livinia were relocated from a game reserve in the Limpopo, where a lot of the poaching occurs. The Rhino Patrol – led by Carl McDonald, Christo Viljoen and Eugene Janse van Rensburg – keep watch on the rhinos at the orphanage, as well as on the main part of the reserve every night. They are constantly alert and investigate anything that seems out of the ordinary, no matter how slight – prevention, after all, is better than cure. As an added measure the Rhino Patrol also have the police and army on standby.
The team at Inverdoorn and RhinoProtect are committed to their work and their goals, serving to protect the animals, no matter what it takes. The criminals though, that being the poachers and the syndicates, are still too protected. When it comes to poaching and horn trade, the rewards far outweigh the risks and reversing this reality is a necessary step in reducing the horrific slaughter which continues unabated.