Another rhino was shot and killed in a farm in Naboomspruit in Limpopo on Saturday, provincial police say. Lieutenant Colonel Ronel Otto said a farmer and his workers were patrolling the farm when they heard gun shots just after 5am. “They went to investigate and they found a rhino dead after it had been shot.”
Otto said the farmer informed the police and searched with his workers for the suspects while waiting for the officers to come, the South African Press Association reports. “Our officers, together with the farmer and his workers searched the whole day. A shoot-out ensued between the police and the suspects between 5 and 6pm.
“One suspect was shot in the hip, he was arrested and taken to hospital. He is under police guard. The rest are still at large.” Otto said police were still searching for the rest of the suspects. More than 20 people have been arrested countrywide in separate cases involving rhino poaching since September.
At least 210 rhinos have been killed for their horns since the beginning of this year, up from a total of 122 poached last year and around 10 in 2007. Black-market demand for rhino horns has risen sharply as economic growth has spread through east and south-east Asia, where the horn is believed to have medicinal properties.
President Jacob Zuma and Cabinet last month expressed concern about rhino poaching in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park that includes the Kruger National Park KNP). His comments followed park rangers shooting dead a suspected poacher. SANParks spokeswoman Wanda Mkutshulwa says there “was a shootout and one of the suspected poachers was fatally wounded and one managed to escape but was later found in a nearby hospital.” The wounded man was arrested and rangers recovered a rifle at the scene. No rhino horns were confiscated but it is believed the men were on their way to target an animal, Eyewitness News reported.
Then-Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Buyelwa Sonjica told a Rhino Summit in Pretoria earlier in October South Africa had a population of about 19,000 white rhino and 1,750 black rhino. “The rhino population in South Africa is being threatened by an upsurge in illegal killing and the leakage of illegally obtained rhino horn into the international illegal trade,” Sonjica said.
Rhino horns can reportedly fetch up to R429,000 a kilogram on the black market. A horn weighs about 8kg. Black-market demand for rhino horn continues to soar, particularly in China and Vietnam, due largely to the economic boom in Asia. The biggest trade centre is reportedly Vietnam, where a cabinet minister recently claimed that a rhino horn concoction cured his cancer. But scientists say that the horns are compacted keratin, the same substance human fingernails and hair is made from and have no medicinal properties.
KNP officials in August said Special Forces with night vision equipment had assisted them and the police in some arrests. Thales Defence Systems officials have told defenceWeb they have demonstrated some of their thermal imaging technology in the KNP.