“The rhinos didn’t stand a chance. Why should they?”

That was the hard-hitting view of anti-poaching and rhino trade activist Stella Stewart, one of 20 like-minded protesters who gathered outside the Durban Magistrate’s Court on Thuesday.

The protesters, representing about a dozen civil society and rhino-activist groups, were calling for the court to deny bail to three men accused of dealing in and possession of rhino horn.

Rajen Moodley, 44, of Phoenix, Sithembiso Luthuli, 34, of Richards Bay, and Samkeliso Sibiya, 47, of Ulundi, were arrested at Battery Beach in March following a police sting.

Brian Sandberg, regional co-ordinator and spokesman of the United Rhino Network, under whose banner the protesters had gathered, said an online petition had been launched last week, calling on courts to deny bail to all accused in major rhino crimes.

“In rhino crimes, due to the complex web of related parties and transactions, when any key accused are released on bail, they are able to tamper with evidence and frustrate further investigations”, he said.

The online petition secured 3 144 signatures when it closed for presentation, and Warriors for African Rhino, with a membership of more than 100 000, endorsed the petition.

The 20 protesters who gathered with banners, posters and flyers, wore black, symbolically mourning the looming extinction of rhinos if poaching was not curbed, said one of the protesters.

Charlie Warren of Save our Rhinos and Outraged Citizens against Rhino Poaching, said syndicates profiting from rhino horn had to be stopped.