Poachers kill six rhino in one night in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi


No less than six rhinos were killed by poachers in Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s flagship game reserve, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, in a night at the weekend.

The first indications all was not well in the northern KwaZulu-Natal reserve came when gunshots were heard around midnight on Sunday. News24 reports rangers and members of the provincial conservation agency’s specialist anti-poaching unit went out at first light on Monday to the area from where the gunshots were heard.

They found six dead rhino all with horns hacked off.

Ezemvelo spokesman Musa Mntambo said the animals were shot in the Mbhuzane area of the park’s Imfolozi section. This is the same part of the park where the successful white rhino capture and breeding project of the 1970s was run by Ian Player and other rangers and wildlife vets from the then Natal Parks Board. Their efforts were instrumental in bringing back the white rhino from local extinction in southern Africa.

The weekend loss of six rhino brings to 139 the number of this Big Five species killed in KwaZulu-Natal this year. Indications are the provincial total could exceed 260 by year-end.

Last month Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) chief whip Narend Singh said 2017 was set to be another bleak year for South Africa’s rhinos. He told the National Assembly there appeared to be no letting up in the “relentless rhino poaching onslaught”, borne out by the latest Hluhluwe-Imfolozi killing. South Africa, he said, was on track to lose more than a thousand rhinos for the fifth straight year.

Unofficial kill figures show the country has lost 483s rhino to poachers in the first five and a half months of 2017. There has been no official rhino kill statistics released by Minister Edna Molewa’s Department of Environmental Affairs but Singh’s statement is borne out by conservation NGO Stop Rhino Poaching Now. Research conducted by it indicates “more than 400 rhino have been poached in South Africa by mid-May, 2017”.