79 Rhinos Poached Since 2007 In The Eastern Cape

The going price for rhino horn is a staggering R900,000 per kilogram.

Over the last decade rhino poaching in the Eastern Cape has gone from non-existent to a consistent number of incidents across the province each year.

“Seventy-nine rhino were poached in the Eastern Cape between the 1 January 2007 and the 31st of December 2016,” the Eastern Cape Director of Compliance and Enforcement (DEDEAT), Div de Villiers said. De Villiers said that the statistics do not include the deaths of young rhino calves.

He was speaking about poaching incidents over the last 10 years at a press conference held by the Wilderness Foundation in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday.

De Villiers said that while it appeared that things were starting to stabilise in the last few years, resources played a vital role in clamping down on poaching syndicates.

Dogs have become an integral part in fighting the war against rhino poaching.

“Resources are critical to fighting the war against poachers, because the poachers are very well resourced themselves, they have firearms and intelligence and so forth,” he said.

“The Kruger National Park have more than 50 dogs that they use to operate and they have a very high success rate. But dogs are very expensive, just to train a dog I believe is R100,000 per dog and then you also have to train your handlers.”

In 2007, the Eastern Cape had seen no rhino poaching incidents but a massive spike started nationally where 13 rhinos were poached across other parts of the country.

In December 2008, the Eastern Cape lost its first rhino after it was shot with an AK47 at the Shamwari Private Game Reserve.

“Since then the escalation country wide has been year-upon-year. There has been a slight dip in the last two years but we still losing over 1000 rhino a year in South Africa,” said de Villiers.

He said that in 2012, poachers, who have become more sophisticated, started killing more than one rhino at a time. During September 2012, four white rhino were illegally darted with M99 on Lalibela Private Game Reserve.

Three of the animals were found dead on the scene but a heavily pregnant eight-year-old cow was still kicking wildly and frothing from her nose and mouth, the pregnant cow subsequently had to be put down.

He said that M99 is a lethal drug used to tranquillise the rhino while poachers go on to saw the horn off.

“Most of those rhinos die, the other cruel thing about it is while that they were drugged, the horns were chopped, often they are mutilated and the horns were hacked into the face of the rhino and it continues to bleed. The heart is still pumping so blood still gets pumped out from the nasal cavity and face of the rhino.”

De Villiers said that 2016 was a devastating year as the province lost 19 rhino. He said that the poachers were definitely using intelligence based on inside information.

“We just know, I won’t elaborate on that but a lot of the incidents happen because of inside information because of people who know the area or previously worked in the area,” said de Villiers.

During June 2016, three men, known as the Ndlovu Gang were caught red-handed at a Grahamstown resort with a freshly-harvested horn of a white rhino bull worth R1.2 million. During June this year, the trio were released on bail, twice in one month. They are expected to appear in court again on October 30, for trial.

“Following the arrest of the Ndlovu’s poaching incidents in the province stopped until an 18-year-old black rhino at Great Fish River Nature Reserve on October 10, 2016. She was found dead with her calf beside her.”

The going price for rhino horn is a staggering R900,000 per kilogram.

De Villiers would not elaborate on statistics for 2017, saying that investigations were at an intricate stage. He did, however, cite two poaching incidents at Lombardini Private Game Reserve outside Jeffrey’s Bay.

Earlier in August, poachers had killed and de-horned two rhinos and wounded a third at the farm.

According to the Wilderness Foundation, more than 90 percent of rhino horn goes through to Vietnam where it is seen as a ‘product’ which elevates your social status. While it is illegal to trade in rhino horn in Vietnam, it is not illegal to have it in your possession.

The foundation has targeted the youth from elite families educating them on the horrors of rhino poaching.

Earlier in July, 11 young people from Ho Chi Minh City, were brought to South Africa for a life changing wilderness experience as part of the Wild Rhino Campaign.

The teenagers have since returned to Vietnam as Rhino Ambassadors, committed to making a difference in the hearts and minds of their communities.

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