The latest update from the Lalibela Game Reserve is that the reserve is being assisted by the police and that the four rhinos will have autopsies preformed on them.
“What we can say at this stage is that there are no visible bullet wounds on any of the rhino and it is likely that they were poisoned. Samples have been sent for analysis and we will be able to confirm this once the results have been received from the laboratory,” they said in a statement on their Facebook page.
“This incident serves to remind us of the cancer that is greed that exists in our society. As a game reserve, we are the custodians of our wildlife and this means that we are at the coalface of this fight.”
“Even though we were all aware that it could happen, it is no less shocking and devastating when it did happen, despite having taken all possible preventative measures.”
“People who are prepared to do this for money would be prepared to do anything for money. We are just grateful that none of our loyal staff were put in danger at any time,” the statement read.
The Democratic Alliance’s provincial spokesman on Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism, John Cupido, said the latest deaths were a wake up call for the province, saying that while no rhino had been poached on state reserves in the province, this was bound to change as private reserves were generally far better resourced as far as security was concerned.
“This needs to be a warning and a lesson to the MEC of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Mcebisi Jonas, that if we do not jack up our Green Scorpions (the compliance and enforcement unit), we will start seeing astronomical losses in our state reserves once the poaching syndicates target them,” he said.
Cupido said the Green Scorpions were staffed with dedicated rangers, but were severely under-equipped.
“An immediate concern is the unit’s lack of vehicles. What good is a ranger to a rhino if the ranger cannot follow up on tips, leads and patrol the areas inhabited by rhino? What good is a ranger to a rhino, if he and backup cannot even get to the rhino when a threat has been identified?”
Cupido said he would be following up with Jonas to ascertain exactly how under-equipped the unit was and how Jonas intended to increase security around the increasingly vulnerable rhino population in the province.
Meanwhile tributes have been pouring in on the game reserve’s Facebook page, with people condemning the senseless killings.
Amanda Van Der Westhuizen wrote: “Organised crime in SA is big business – drugs, trafficking of humans, poaching our wildlife, perlemoen. Makes me so angry. Instead of trying to catch poachers, law enforcement should focus on finding kingpins and restricting visas of nationals from these countries.”
Mosaic Tourism wrote: “What incredibly tragic news! The senseless killing of our nation’s rhino driven by greed and ignorance continues. To think that somewhere people are celebrating the “success” of their mission at having killed 4 defenceless rhinos is both revolting and sickening!”
Debbie Ferreira Pretorius wrote: “This is such shocking and tragic news, I am so so sorry. Clearly something much more serious must be done to stop the perpetrators of these disgusting atrocities.”
For more tributes, or to leave your own, you can visit the Lalibela Facebook Page here.