by LOUISE CARTER for TALK OF THE TOWN [Port Alfred, Eastern Cape]
THE stench of blood and death hung in the air last Thursday morning following the discovery of two butchered white rhino cows and a severely injured bull at Sibuya Game Reserve, near Kenton-on-Sea. All three rhino were older than 14 years, and one cow had a calf aged three, while the other had a eleven-month-old calf. The cows were de-horned and dead when discovered around 4am, while the bull’s face, according to owner Nick Fox, had been butchered. The massacre of the rhinos has devastated local communities as well as Sibuya Game Reserve staff, and has had anti-poaching teams and law enforcement departments on high alert. According to reports it is determined that the animals were darted and their horns sawn off at around 3:30am in a clearing in the reserve’s thick bush.
The alarm was raised from the anti-poaching unit when the two calves were spotted running around without their mothers.
“I certainly have to give credit to the police and rhino community. We had about 30 people on the scene with every police department represented, but I still believe if we are going to stop this purge we need a specialised rhino unit. These poachers are professional highly resourced syndicates and if there is a genuine desire to stop this scourge we need a better and more specialised rhino unit,” said Fox.
After the police arrived, the spoor was tracked but no suspects were found. While a police forensics unit combed the scene for evidence, the scale of injuries endured by the bull became apparent.
A vet inspected the bull and analysed his injuries. His face had been dismembered but it seemed he might recover, according to Fox. His leg, however, was also badly injured as he laid on it in a bad position causing blood flow to be blocked.
In the days that followed, Bingo the badly maimed bull hung on for dear life but sadly did not make it and was put down after he got stuck in deep mud behind a steep river bank. The bull, which had been the first rhino at the reserve, had gone blind after being dehorned by poachers as a result of blood pressure building up and stumbled down the cliff into an estuary.
According to the Sibuya Rhino Foundation it was evident that he had been struggling to get out and kept sliding back into the mud.
“We spent the entire day putting rocks and brunches around him to give him a foothold in the mud and cutting away at the bank so he could hopefully walk out. Sadly, although he managed to get out of the river a couple of times, he could not see the pathway despite our coaxing, calling and even prodding,” Sibuya Rhino Foundation reported on Facebook.
In the end Bingo was buried with his family. The Sibuya Rhino foundation decided to return him back to the scene where the lives cows were murdered.
“Although it is a place that will forever haunt us with bad memories, it will also be remembered as their favourite spot where they loved to be at daybreak to catch the early morning sun. We are all saddened but have not given up. We will work even harder to protect all their offspring,” reported the Sibuya Rhino Foundation.
As both rhino calves are suckling, they still need to be fed, so have been successfully darted and placed in a baby Rhino orphanage.
According to the Sibuya Rhino Foundation Facebook page, the two orphaned calves are stable after been moved to a specialised rhino rehabilitation centre on a game reserve in the Eastern Cape. The 11-month-old, Binki, has been placed in a boma with another orphaned calf and has started to graze.
The three month old baby started off well and took to the bottle immediately on arrival at the sanctuary. However, according to Facebook, as the sedatives wore off she became very traumatised and stopped drinking. The vet and carers decided to give her more sedative and fortunately she started drinking from the bottle again. Currently she is no longer sedated and is accepting her bottle from her surrogate “mum” naturally and without drugs.
SAPS media liaison Lt Luvuyo Mjekula confirmed the incidents and sequence of events, and reported that the case is being investigated by the organised crime unit.
Since January, the Eastern Cape has suffered the tragic loss of seven rhino in total. In the week before the Sibuya massacre another attack took place at Tams Safari’s in Cradock where a nine-month-old calf was orphaned after its pregnant mother and sibling were slaughtered.
It was the second incident in the last month at the reserve with a bull around 15 years of age was found dead and dehorned.
For the Sunshine Coast, it has been a heart-breaking blow as this is the second incident this year on our doorsteps. Earlier in January a 15 year old cow was found dead at Oceana Beach and Wildlife Reserve near Port Alfred. The Oceana cow had already been dehorned before poachers killed her.
Also in January another rhino was found dead on the eZulu Game Reserve between Bedford and Grahamstown.
If you would like to donate to help protect these rhino, please go to the Sibuya Rhino Foundation facebook page and click donate.