Maxine was one of the firm favourites with the public and staff.
Brian Boswell, the owner of Natal Zoological Gardens and the Lion Park, said: “Staff have been crying the whole day. Maxine died early on Tuesday morning. I heard the news at about 8am when a staff member came running to tell me what had happened.”
Boswell said from what was observed, poachers entered the boma Maxine was sleeping in, put a gun to her head and shot her. Her forehead had been singed by the muzzle flash.
What Boswell found strange about the incident was that Maxine lived within 5m of where staff lived and no one heard anything.
A depressed Boswell said Maxine had been at the park since she was two years old. Her mother died while giving birth to her and they took care of her. Boswell said this was not easy as she drank a substantial amount of milk as a calf, which was quite expensive.
Musa Mntambo, Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife spokesperson, expressed his disappointment at Maxine’s death. He said it also showed that this was not a problem affecting only the government, but private game reserves as well.
He said there had been 126 rhinos killed this year in the province. Mntambo said it was imperative that communities, the government and the private sector come together to fight poaching.
“If things go unchecked then the extinction of rhinos is a real possibility,” he said.
This was one of many incidents where rhinos were killed within enclosures.
Earlier this year, the Daily News reported that staff at the Fundimvelo Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage were left traumatised by a group of poachers who attacked them and killed a calf. Another calf had to be euthanised due to its injuries. Both calves were also de-horned.
The orphanage closed down soon afterwards and the rhinos were moved to an undisclosed location.