The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has once again warned that the killing of a rhino is only the beginning of a series of crimes committed by international organised networks.
The poaching of rhino horn continues unabated and despite a lull in activity during COVID lockdowns, attacks are seemingly on the rise again. But in the Karoo region, there is a story of hope and life finding a way after the horror of a mass killing on a farm.
At just under two weeks old, the little male white rhino weighs in at 57 kilograms. Every few hours he is given a nutritious bottle of milk which he gobbles up. His very existence is short of miraculous.
In December, five rhinos were attacked at a farm close to the Aquila Private Game Reserve where the little calf now lives. Four died, but the fifth was a pregnant female that clung to life after the poachers hacked into her face for her horn. With great care and surgery, she survived.
To everyone’s amazement, she gave birth to this small male at the end of April. It’s suspected that the trauma of the attack in December may have contributed to her not having enough milk to rear her young.
The WWF says transnational organised networks continue to sell horns into illicit markets in Asia. And these crimes are often facilitated by corruption.
“No official statistics have been released for 2022 as yet but anecdotal reports indicate that the risk as predicted the risk is shifting around the country. We must give all the support we can to parks’ staff and law enforcement partners to protect our rhinos on the ground. However, to change the game, we need to disrupt the networks who are organising the illicit trade in horns and a strong foundation for this would be the sign-off of the government’s national integrated strategy to combat wildlife trafficking,” says WWF SA Wildlife Programme Dr. Jo Shaw.
One of the programmes that were activated following the attack in December was the Saving Private Rhino rapid response team. It assisted in bringing the little calf to Aquila Private Game Reserve where he will be raised.
Hopefully, he’ll grow to become a majestic rhino bull of over 2 tons. It’s a long way to go still, but for the team, he embodies their hope that one day the killing of rhinos will finally end.