At Midnight on Tuesday 27th September 2011, Swaziland fell victim to her second Rhino poaching incident; a pregnant white rhino cow poached for both her horns at Hlane Royal National Park. The incident shortly followed the loss of Swaziland’s first rhino in over 20 years which capped the African Rhino Range State record on Friday 3rd June, and the subsequent death of her weaner calf. A cost often not considered when rhinos are poached is the resultant loss of the calves due to loosing their mothers. Swaziland lost one such calf in the first incident while the unborn calf of the second cow can also be added to the cost of poaching. This has obvious impact on the breeding potential of the rhino population especially as rhinos normally calve every three years from the age of approximately ten years old. The second incident confirms that the first incident was orchestrated by the same South African Rhino Poaching Syndicate. Both horns and two firearms have been recovered following a tip-off to the Royal Swaziland Police.
Swazilandis one of the few remaining stable breeding environments in the world and this is now at risk. To date poachers have never reaped the promised rewards for their participation. Indeed, duringSwaziland’s Rhino War of 1988-92 when the Kingdom lost almost 80% of its Rhino to poaching, not a single poacher was paid the promised reward. Similarly, the re-emergence of rhino poaching this year has lead to arrest or in the most recent incidence, death, within a matter of days following the sharp detective work of the Royal Swaziland Police, the commitment of the rangers and, importantly, to the eager support of the concerned public.
Swaziland also has a highly-respected and strict Game Act, a tight-community culture, in which large poaching operations can’t fail to go unnoticed, and the support of its monarchy and people who culturally place the protection of their children’s natural heritage, and the preservation of one of their key employers; the tourism industry, as a priority.
The two incidents below serve as an example of the perils of rhino poaching:
On 3rd June 2011 Swaziland lost her first rhino to poachers since 1992, capping the African Rhino Range State record. Ironically, the brutalised Rhino carcass, a young two-ton white rhino cow and mother to a calf which later died as a result, was discovered on Saturday 4th June; World Environment Day. Five men were arrested within three days for the poaching incident, but the two (ultimately charged for the poaching) were initially released on bail. The shooter had escaped back toSouth Africa with some of their accomplices, apparently commissioned by a South African.
On 27th September 2011 a second, pregnant rhino cow, was shot dead by poachers, again at Hlane Royal National Park. Having heard the gunshots at midnight rangers found the carcass from the viewpoint of a hired helicopter the following morning. Both horns were missing. Big Game Parks worked closely with the Royal Swaziland Police and leads were quickly established. On the 28th September, the Royal Swaziland Police received a tip-off and homed in on Maphatsindvuku near Hlane. The suspects opened fire after refusing to surrender and the police were compelled to shoot in self-defense which resulted in three South African men shot dead. The men were in possession of two rhino horns and a mini .223 Ruger as well as a 375 H&H Magnum. The three men are believed to be of the same syndicate which orchestrated the June poaching incident, some allegedly on bail for rhino poaching cases and others having broken out of jail cells from Badplaas Prison in Mphumalanga South Africa, while one is suspected of killing a South African policeman. The suspects are allegedly connected to at least 12 rhino murders in Songimvelo Game Reserve inSouth Africa’s Mphumalanga province on the North-West border of Swaziland as well as other surrounding areas.
Big Game Parks would like to express its gratitude to the public for their support of rhino conservation through public sympathy as well as passing on valuable information to the rangers and police to help them solve these serious crimes. Further, we urge the public to continue to support their natural heritage by simply visiting and enjoying the wildlife withinSwaziland’s parks.
In this instance, Big Game Parks offered a R10, 000 reward for any information leading to the arrest or conviction of those involved in the rhino poaching incident. Aware of the very real threat of the eruption of a second rhino war in Swaziland, Big Game Parks is also offering a R20, 000 reward for information which is proven to prevent a rhino poaching incident from occurring and which successfully brings the perpetrators to book. In light of these recent incidences, it is vital to remain vigilant and prevent future human and wildlife casualties by sending any information on suspected future poaching practices to The Royal Swaziland Police or to Big Game Parks via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning +268 76043867.