The South African National Parks (SANParks) has revealed that 69 poachers have been arrested this year, but the wanton slaughter of rhino for its much-sought-after horn continues seemingly unabated.
“Sixty-nine poachers have been arrested this year alone in the park with a further 105 perpetrators of environmental crime arrested outside the boundaries of the park,” said SANParks in a weekend statement issued by the Kruger National Park communications and marketing department.
Last year an internal investigation led to the arrest of three SANParks employees for rhino poaching in the Kruger National Park.
Rangers last month shot dead a poacher in the Kruger National Park. They recovered his backpack with two rhino horns, a large-calibre rifle, and other equipment.
In the latest poaching incident, SANParks said its rhino dehorning team made a gruesome discovery of a badly mutilated female rhino in the South of the Kruger National Park on Thursday, 9 December 2021.
“The incident takes place despite the continuous and dedicated efforts by SANParks to curb rhino poaching in the Kruger National Park through a number of focussed initiatives,” said SANParks.
The veterinarian and the section ranger who attended to the rhino said it appeared as if the animal had been shot a few days prior to being found.
“Bullet wounds were visible in her head and foreleg, and there were open wounds to her nasal cavity where her horn had been brutally hacked off. There were additional injuries to the lower back, presumably dealt to stun her,” said the ranger.
“A decision was made to euthanise the rhino due to the extent of her wounds and level of infection.”
Reacting to the discovery of the rhino cow, Kruger National Park Managing Executive Gareth Coleman said: “This horrific incident has left our rangers and colleagues traumatised as they are doing everything they can to protect these magnificent animals and threatened species.
“Rhino sightings are a key reason why tourists visit the park and in so doing contribute to the local economy. We are appealing to members of the public to assist law enforcement agencies to bring these criminals to book.”
Rhino poaching is largely driven by the demand for the horn in Asian countries including China and Vietnam, where it is used as an ingredient in traditional medicine or collected as a status symbol.
Reports suggest that rhino horn can fetch as much as US $65 000 (R1 million) per kg on the Asian black market.
SANParks also warned that there was a video circulating on social media depicting the severely injured White Rhino cow.
“The video is distressing to watch,” warned SANParks.