Three Rhinos Murdered, Two Poachers Shot Dead in Kruger National Park, South Africa

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South Africa continues to lose its precious pachyderms.


The demand for illegal rhino horn reportedly claimed the lives of another three rhinos, including one calf, earlier this week in South Africa’s famed Kruger National Park. Gunshots were heard and rangers went to investigate. Tragically, it was too late: The poachers were already sawing the horns off one of the rhinos.

An exchange of gunfire followed, and the two poachers were killed.

According to Eyewitness News, 130 of South Africa’s iconic rhinos have been murdered in 2011.

The latest figures show just over 130 rhino were killed across the country in less than four months, while 72 suspects were arrested, 13 of whom were killed and six wounded.

This troubling figure already represents nearly 40 percent of 2010′s rhino death toll.

Four arrested by SANDF

Just days ago, four Mozambican nationals were arrested in Kruger National Park by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). The suspects were in possession of the typical tools used by rhino poachers: A hunting rifle, cell phones, binoculars, and an axe.

The SANDF was deployed this month to protect the international border between the Kruger National Park and Mozambique, which was identified as a deadly hotspot for rhino killings.

Groenewald’s bail reduced

Meanwhile, alleged ringleader of a notorious South African rhino horn syndicate, Dawie Groenewald, is not only out on bail – his bail amount was recently reduced from R 1 million (USD $147,065) to R 100,000 (USD $14,705) by the Musina magistrate’s court in Limpopo.

The rhino horn syndicate case involving game farmer Groenewald, along with at least ten other suspects including veterinarians Karel Toet and Manie du Plessis, is expected to resume in September 2011.

Among the litany of charges are assault, fraud, corruption, malicious damage to property, illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, and contravention of the National Environmental Biodiversity Act.

To see a list of the suspects and read more about Groenewald’s previous brushes with the law, check out South African ‘Groenewald Gang’ Returns to Court in April for Killing Rhinos, Dealing in Rhino Horn.

To read more about the connection between unscrupulous members of South Africa’s legal rhino trade industry and the illegal rhino horn trade, check out Are ‘Insiders’ Intentionally Fueling the Demand for Illegal Rhino Horn?.

Sharp contrasts

In sharp contrast to the “Groenewald gang” case, less affluent criminals at the lower levels of the rhino poaching operation appear to receive harsher treatment by the South African judicial system.

Earlier this week, three Mozambicans appeared in the Phalaborwa Magistrate’s Court. Million Chauke, Juga Chauke and Raul Shirindz were initially arrested in 2009, for involvement with rhino-related crimes and will now remain in custody until their July 5th court date.

Last month, the Nelspruit Regional Court sentenced three Mozambican citizens to prison. Renaldo Franchesco Masiki and Elvis Mdaka were sentenced to nine years, and Joao Sendelani Malangute received five years. Masiki and Mdaka were also found guilty of possessing illegal fire arms and ammunition.

In June 2010, the Kempton Park Magistrate’s Court sentenced Vietnamese citizen Xuan Hoang to ten years in prison for attempting to smuggle rhino horns from South African to Vietnam.

Is there a pattern here? Dr. Paula Kahumbu, Executive Director of WildlifeDirect, does not mince words on this contentious topic. Check out Dr. Kahumbu’s article Rhino slaughter in South Africa is driven by educated, rich, white people.

Continued use of illegal rhino horn in traditional Chinese medicine

At the root of this killing spree is the continued use of illegal rhino horn in traditional Chinese medicine, which is still sought after in both China and Vietnam.

However, rhino horn has been rigorously analyzed and actually contains no medical properties whatsoever. (Read the entire article at Busting the Rhino Horn Myth with Science.)

How to help

You can help raise awareness about the rhino crisis by making a personal commitment to educate others about the illegal trade in rhino horn and debunking the myths about rhino horn.


Image: istockphoto.com

Rhishja Cota-Larson

I am the founder of Annamiticus, an educational nonprofit organization which provides news and information about wildlife crime and endangered species. I am the Editor of Rhino Horn is Not Medicine and Project Pangolin, author of the book Murder, Myths & Medicine, a writer for the environmental news blog Planetsave, the host of Behind the Schemes, and Producer for the upcoming documentary The Price. When I'm not blogging about the illegal wildlife trade, I enjoy gardening, reading, designing, and rocking out to live music.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. I do not agree entirely with Dr. Paula Kahumbu’s statement that ” Rhino slaughter in South Africa is driven by educated, rich, white people.”
    Nearly half the rhino killed in 2010 and 2011 thus far come out of the Kruger Park. Killed by black Mozambiquans.

  2. @ Ayesha: Dr Kahumbu’s was not talking about the actual execution of the rhinos, he was refering to the people who have the money to pay these thugs to kill the rhinos and as last year showed very often it is rich people, and I very much doubt all these idiots walking across the boarder from Mozambique even have the connections to sell these horns. But first cause, the asians driving the demand!!

  3. Marzaan Fourie

    I agree with Ayesha Cantor!!!!!!!!!!!!