20 August 2011: Rhino’s horn hacked off – while still alive!

Sometime during the early morning of 20 August 2011, two groups of rhino poachers attacked three of the herd of six resident rhinos, on the 7500 hectare Aquila Private Game Reserve, situated just two hours from Cape Town. According to reports, they gained access initially by vehicle through neighbouring farms on the N1 national road, then walked several kilometers at night through the Karoo vegetation.

Within the last year, Aquila’s anti poaching team has deterred two attempted rhino poaching attempts. In November 2010, a low flying helicopter made two passes across the reserve before being deterred. Since then the reserve has spared no expense to protect its rhinos. “We believe that our anti poaching team must have surprised the poachers, as the first rhino we found, with its front horn sawn off with a chain saw and they left having only had time to get half way through the second horn before retreating,” says owner Searl Derman.

“They would not have left without the second horn, with a street value of R1m, if it was not for our anti poaching team. This rhino lost a lot of blood but managed to stumble over 150 metres and is fighting for his life. The loss of blood and position it was lying in while drugged could have caused massive muscle and organ damage which could be fatal.”

This rhino was the first rhino reintroduced to Aquila and to the Western Cape in over 250 years since shot out by hunters.

Another young female was found with a dart in her shoulder area, barely alive. Derman raced to the closest vet in Paarl and a clinic in Worcester to get the antidote and schedule 6 and 7 drugs that were needed to save her. These drugs can only be kept by licensed veterinary surgeons.

“We are pleased to say that as of this morning, 9am, she has recovered well and is standing over her father to protect him,” says Derman. “After finding the second rhino, we sent all rangers and security staff in game vehicles, on quad bikes and horseback to search for the one rhino that had not been accounted for.”

Two helicopters and a light aircraft from Cape Town were brought in to search Aquila’s 7500 hectare conservancy. The rhino was spotted from the air, but on landing, the searchers discovered a blood bath. The rhino’s face had literally been hacked off with pangas and machetes, proving that there were two active teams attacking the Aquila rhinos, one using a chain saw, the other using pangas and machetes to dehorn the rhino.

According to Derman, rhino poaches are well equipped, heavily armed with automatic weapons, night and thermal vision equipment and well trained. Their “modus operandi” is normally to fly at night with thermal vision. They can spot a rhino through bushes and mist over four miles away, they GPS the location of the rhino and drop their poaching teams off several kilometers away to walk in and normally dart the baby first so that the mother and father stay to protect it and don’t run away.

Aquila Private Game Reserve is offering R100 000.00 reward for information leading to an arrest and prosecution of these poachers. Informants’ details will be kept confidential and we can be contacted on searl@aquilasafari.com.

Original post: Wilderness Foundation South Africa

DNA and the prosecution of rhino poachers

Pretoria — The South African National Parks yesterday received 1 000 DNA kits to ensure effective prosecution of rhino poachers.

According to SanParks, the kits from the faculty of Veterinary Services of the University of Pretoria will go a long way in ensuring management of the rhino population and effective prosecution of rhino horn poachers.

Speaking at the handover ceremony, SANParks CEO, Dr David Mabunda, said throughout the years, DNA evidence has ensured that criminal elements are locked up as the analysis of information collected proved to be the only working weapon that cannot be disputed to halt criminals in their tracks.

“This will certainly go a long way in changing the trend of suspects found in possession of rhino horn only being charged with possession as the horns in their possession will be linked to a carcass lying somewhere in a national park or game reserve,” he said.

According to Mabunda, the kits would also assist rhino managers with the individual rhino in their care.

“The scourge of rhino poaching we are faced with needs sophisticated equipment. Technology is needed to resolve the problems in a national park,” he said, adding that the fight against rhino poaching is everyone’s business.

“If we all stand together, we stand a good chance of winning.”

Mabunda said the kits are expected to help prosecutors to be more tougher on those caught in possession of rhino horns.

According to Mabunda, there are 22 000 rhinos in the country. SANParks has lost 333 rhinos. To date, 122 suspects have been arrested for rhino poaching.

Dr Cindy Harper, Head of Veterinary Genetics Laboratory (VGL) at the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Pretoria, said the primary aim of the project is to support investigation of poaching incidents through forensic DNA testing.

“The ability to obtain a full DNA profile from rhino horn allows us to match recovered horns to specific poaching incidents,” she said.

The DNA Rhino Sample kits project is supported by a host of esteemed private sector companies such as SAB Miller, BMW, 702 Talk Radio through its LeadSA Campaign and the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Veterinary Science.

Source: http://www.buanews.gov.za