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Rustenburg - A North West farmer is “shattered beyond belief” after seven of his rhinos were shot, hacked with machetes and dehorned.
The discovery, the latest in the spate of rhino poaching in South Africa, was made at a game farm on the Klipkopspruit Farm near Rustenburg on Friday.
The farm owner, Mark Lappeman, said his son had stumbled across what looked like an orphaned calf running around without its mother.
A helicopter was hired and, while scouring the bushes on Saturday, discovered three dead rhinos.
Four more dead rhinos, Lappeman said, were discovered about 100m away. They had all been dehorned. Among the killed rhinos, he added, was a five-month-old calf found lying next to its mother.
Lappeman said some of the dead rhinos had their eyes gouged out, others had their ears cut off, while a female had its genitalia cut off.
“I got these rhinos from the Natal Parks Board and have had some of them for 20 years. Now, they have been wiped out in a day,” said Lappeman, also describing the killings as “a massacre”.
“They used guns and machetes. These guys were so callous and knew what they were doing and wanted. I am absolutely shattered. So devastated.”
Lappeman said the orphaned calf was darted and moved to a place of safety for rehabilitation.
Police spokesman Captain Paul Ramaloko said the dead rhinos were not badly decomposed when they were found.
“They were still fresh carcasses,” he said, adding that no arrests had been made.
By late on Sunday, the police, including priority crimes, the Hawks, the forensic division and the dog units, were still at the farm putting together vital evidence.
Lappeman said officials from the North West Park Board and the Asset Protection Unit had also visited the farm.
Two weeks ago, a North West farm owner said he was contemplating selling the rest of his animals after six rhinos were shot and dehorned. The rhinos were part of 11 that were shot by poachers.
Braam van Greunig, the owner of Hartzhoogte game lodge at Amalia, near Schweizer-Reneke, said he could not deal with poachers and feared for the rhinos’ safety, and for that of his family.
More than 550 rhinos have been killed this year – far surpassing last year’s toll of over 440 and 333 in 2010.
Early this month, Thai national Chumlong Lemtongthai was sentenced to 40 years in jail after he pleaded guilty to paying prostitutes to pose as hunters so that he could harvest rhino horns, which were sold on Asia’s traditional medicine market. The group is thought to have netted 26 rhino horns.
Last month, Environmental Affairs Department deputy director-general Fundisile Mketeni told Parliament that 224 arrests had been made in connection with rhino poaching. He said the Kruger National Park remained the worst-affected area, with 320 rhinos killed this year.
Parliament heard about funding constraints and vacancies in key positions having an adverse effect on the fight against poaching.