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Durban - Two rhinos died and one survived when they were darted and then dehorned at Tala Private Game Reserve near Eston in broad daylight this weekend.
The reserve’s general manager, Derek Grose, said management and staff were still in shock. It was the first time rhinos had been poached at the reserve.
“It is shocking; I just cannot describe the devastation.”
Grose said he was doing regular his rounds on Saturday when he saw the rhinos lying on the ground.
When he arrived at the scene, Fiona, who was about 30 years old and her eldest female offspring, Mary - about 20 years old - were already dead.
“The little one (who was unnamed) was still alive, but her horn was also taken
She had been sent for rehabilitation.
“She is up and running and we are positive she is going to be fine in the next few days.”
Grose said he let some of his staff - who worked closely with the rhinos - go home after the news broke.
“They were so upset that they could not even work. They will come back once they are fine.”
Lonely Masiyane, a field ranger at Tala, said poaching was destroying their industry.
“If rhinos are poached, it is like our company is closing down because what attracts people to come here is one of the animals in the Big Five. If we lose them, it is really worrying.”
Masiyane said the rhinos were his closest friends. He said Fiona and Mary were always together “and that is why they were poached at the same time”.
“When driving people around, I could come right up to them and they would not react, because I had been with them for more than five years
Grose said he was grateful for the support they received from people in the Richmond and Eston areas after the news broke.
The two rhinos would be buried on Monday.
“We will give them the respect and dignity they deserve.”
KwaZulu-Natal Environmental Affairs spokesman Jeffrey Zikhali said the department was worried about the escalation of poaching, especially after an elephant was poached in the Kruger National Park for the first time in 10 years.
He said 150 people had been arrested in connection with poaching, nationally, this year.
Police spokesman Jay Naicker confirmed the incident. He said Hawks were investigating a case of illegal hunting.
- A Mozambican man, caught red-handed while hunting a white rhino in Imfolozi Game Reserve, has been jailed for eight years.
On Friday, Antonio Sendes Langa, 36, of Maputo, pleaded guilty in the Mtubatuba Regional Court to contravening the National Biodiversity Management Act by hunting a white rhino in September last year.
Langa’s plea was accepted by State advocate Yuri Gangai, who withdrew charges against Langa’s co-accused Xolani Mkwanazi and Mbhekiseni “Absa” Mkhwanazi because of insufficient evidence.
Handing down sentence, Magistrate Malcolm de Klerk said rhino poaching was “getting out of control” and the court had a responsibility to impose stiff sentences.
According to statistics released by the SA environmental affairs department this month, 376 rhinos have been poached this year.
Langa admitted that his actions had been “wrong and unlawful”, as he knew that rhinos were a protected species.