34 Rhinos Butchered in Hoedspruit in a Year

Poachers killed an adult rhino bull on the farm Jakkalsbessie in the Greater Hoedspruit Area on Thursday, February 9, 2012.

"They hacked off the horn and left the rest of the carcass in the veld."

The Protrack team found a female, with horn intact, the following day, following evidence on the scene of the attack, indicating she was with the male when he was shot.

"She was very skittish, but appeared to be unharmed," said Vincent Barkas, owner of Protrack, who led the investigation on the crime scene and did post-mortem on the male. Vincent is adamant: "She has to be protected, they will come back for her."

This killing brings the rhino deaths in the Hoedspruit area from January 2011 to February 2012 to 34. Of the 15 reserves that had been hit, only three had security. "These statistics cannot lie."

Vincent, who is also a coordinator for the local initiative, the Rhino Revolution, believes the private sector needs to focus on the bigger picture when fighting this battle. "Only a combination of things will stop this - not just one thing," he says. Guards, poison, dehorning, getting an anti-poaching system in place - all of these and more, should be on the table. And it will not help to wait.

"Dehorning your rhino now, will give you the 16 months to get your anti-poaching plan, team and system in place." According to Vincent, there are no rhino horns left to the west of Hoedspruit.

It is time for out the box thinking, combined with vast experience, local knowledge, co-operation and commitment. According to national thinking, about 500 rhino will be poached in the country this year. Hoedspruit is expected to lose between 40 and 44 rhino. Looking at days and time of death, Vincent found an interesting pattern that contradicts popular belief that poachers will strike at full moon.

Vincent warns landowners should be vigilant around Sundays and Mondays, and especially around New Moon and the first quarter of the moon.

"People should also realise, poachers move in during the afternoon and shoot at last light."

Judging by this, February 22 to March 8 will be critical with March 4 to 5, especially worth marking in huge red circles.

By Lynette Strauss

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