Horn poachers have killed another six rhino in a single night shoot-up in KwaZulu-Natal’s flagship Hluhluwe-Imfolozi reserve.
It is understood that 11 gunshots were heard around 00:00 on Sunday. At first light on Monday, Ezemvelo KZN wildlife rangers and anti-poaching units went to where the gunshots had been heard and found six dead rhino. All their horns had been hacked off and removed by the poaching gangs. Ezemvelo spokesperson Musa Mntambo confirmed in a brief statement on Tuesday that the six animals had been killed in the Mbhuzane area, in the Imfolozi section of the park. This is the area where fewer than 100 southern white rhino were rescued from global extinction in the 1890s and subsequently multiplied to nearly 20 000 animals after being spread out to Kruger National Park and other wildlife reserves across Africa.
However, more than 6 000 of these animals have been shot and butchered for their horns over the last decade in SA alone. Over the last three years, poachers have increasingly turned their attention to the KwaZulu-Natal rhino reserves after stricter security measures were introduced in the Kruger National Park. The latest series of killings in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi has raised the rhino body count in KwaZulu-Natal to 139 so far this year, suggesting that the final death toll in KZN could exceed 260 by year end.
No national statistics have been released so far this year by the department of environmental affairs – though the national killing rate has exceeded 1 000 killings annually for the last four years (around three rhino each day countrywide). In a separate incident, former Ezemvelo rhino anti-poaching officer Lawrence Munro has been gored by a black rhino in Malawi. Munro resigned from Ezemvelo eighteen months ago to take over as field operations manager for the African Parks network in Liwonde National Park in Malawi.
Last week he was escorting tourists on foot in Liwonde when a black rhino charged them. Munro stepped out in front to protect the group and was gored in the leg. He was airlifted to a private hospital in Johannesburg and was reported to be recovering well on Monday night.