Massacre of endangered rhino continues
By De Wet Potgieter
The massacre of South Africa's endangered rhino population continues with the discovery of two more mutilated carcasses in the North West and Limpopo.
This brings the total number of rhinos killed for their horns to 117 according to anti-poaching investigators, though SA National Parks has put the figure at .
A butchered rhino cow was discovered on Thursday morning in the Borakalalo National Game Park in North West when members of the anti-poaching unit heard four shots fired. The other rhino was found dead near Bela Bela.
Rusty Hustler, head of counter-poaching in North West, immediately deployed his units and summoned a helicopter as back-up to find the gunmen. A police helicopter zoomed in to assist in the chase.
No poachers were apprehended, but rangers discovered yet another dead rhino in the bushes. It seemed she was killed a week ago and her horn hacked off with a panga.
Ballistic experts could not find any bullets in the carcass. This led investigators to conclude that the rhino was darted with tranquilising drugs before her horn was severed, then left to die of trauma and organ failure.
Meanwhile the focus of investigators is increasingly falling on helicopters allegedly used in poaching operations.
Last Sunday a family from Thabazimbi in Limpopo took photographs of a helicopter, an R44, which, they told investigators, had been flying suspiciously over their farm. The aircraft registration numbers had been deliberately covered over. Farmer Piet van Rensburg subsequently posted a photograph of the helicopter on the aviation website, Avcom.
When the helicopter landed on a rocky outcrop, Van Rensburg's son-in-law drove up to have a closer look. But before he could confront the occupants the helicopter flew off, as if to escape scrutiny.
Other postings said the same helicopter was spotted flying low in the Bela Bela and Modimole areas earlier that week. The identity and ownership of the helicopter spotted on the Van Rensburgs' farm is known to Independent Newspapers.
The police, who believe the helicopter's pilot flies on a freelance basis for two interlinked poaching syndicates, are following up leads expected to tie the aircraft to the poachers.
The public outcry over the brutal annihilation of South Africa's rhinos rose this week when a Kempton Park magistrate passed out the harshest sentence to date in South Africa for rhino horn smuggling .
A security guard from Vietnam, Zhong Whong, 29, was sentenced by Magistrate Prince Manyathi to 10 years in jail for trying to smuggle out of SA, 16kg of rhino horn, worth R2.2 million in his country.
POSTED BY: CFC NEWSROOM