rhino was killed and its horn hacked off near Mossel Bay here in the Garden Route late yesterday. It was the only one on the game farm (the others were already sold off to keep poachers of the farm). The remaining rhino was however quite the celebrity over here because of his friendship with a pug named Madam Gigi

Cape Town - A seven-year-old white rhino bull, Sir Fabian – known by visitors for his unlikely friendship with a pug puppy – has been killed by poachers in a Garden Route reserve.

The Nyaru Game Lodge near Mossel Bay had sold the rest of their rhinos in an attempt to keep poachers at bay, but kept Sir Fabian because of his popularity with visitors.

The Department of Environmental Affairs said it was the first rhino killed for its horns in the Western Cape in more than a year, bringing the national total this month alone to more than 40 after 1 004 were slaughtered countrywide last year.

Sir Fabian’s carcass was discovered during a game drive by rangers late on Monday afternoon.

Nyaru owner Ruan Fouché said: “We are so shocked. The farm is in the middle of nowhere and Sir Fabian was our only rhino after we sold two others when poaching started to intensify in the country. We believe he was killed on Sunday.”

He said an autopsy was being done to determine the cause of death. “At this stage we are not sure if he was shot or darted. He didn’t bleed to death, because the horn was removed very carefully. The poachers knew exactly what they were doing.

“The smaller horn was not removed, leading us to believe the poachers might have been interrupted. We had rangers sleep next to the carcass on Monday night in case they returned to finish what they started.”

He said the incident was especially tragic because of the bond Sir Fabian shared with the farm’s pug puppy Madam Gigi.

While Sir Fabian usually had a placid temperament and frequently visited the main lodge, he could become cantankerous at times, but Madam Gigi “had a way of taming the beast”.

“Madam Gigi became part of the Nyaru family around Christmas 2012. From day one it became quite clear to everyone this small pug had a huge personality. One day, two-ton Sir Fabian went for his supplementary feed in front of the lodge.

“Madam Gigi, still a puppy, saw him and ran towards him, and there, right in front of the staff’s eyes, something remarkable clicked between the two. Sir Fabian watched, stunned and in awe, when this small black creature in her pink winter outfit approached. A lot of sniffing, huffing and puffing took place. But from that moment, the two unlikely friends became inseparable.

“Whenever Fabian came to a visit Madam Gigi, she would run up to him, give him a lick, chew lucerne with him and play with him. He would follow her around for a while before disappearing for his daily mud spa in the bush.”

Fouché said staff had been saddened by the incident. “You come to love an animal like that. Every day at about 7pm Sir Fabian used to make his way to the restaurant at the lodge for his food. He will be missed.” - Garden Route Media

Cape Argus