Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Rare white rhino butchered as Swaziland records first poaching case in 20 years

CONDOLENCES from the country and many parts of the world are pouring into the Big Game Parks following the brutal killing of a 2 000 kilogram, rare white rhino which was found dead and de-horned on World Environment Day (Sunday) morning at Hlane.

This was disclosed by Big Game Parks’ Tourism Executive Michael Richardson, who said since the news of the death of the rhino were released, a lot of people both from and outside the conservation front had written to them expressing their condolences and disgust at this wanton waste of the country’s wildlife heritage.

“It has been very touching while also spurring us to work harder to ensure that this rhino will be the last that will go to the poachers. It has also strengthened our resolve to ensure that the culprit(s) are found and brought to book. We hope and believe that with such support, we will be successful in our quest,” he said.

Richardson explained that the country’s record of strict and tough anti-poaching laws had to be protected at all costs while also acknowledging that those responsible better be aware of the risks and consequences they had placed themselves in.

He said the country had a proud record in rhino protection spanning to close to 20 years and recognised the world over. “For example, in neighbouring South Africa, 330 rhinos were murdered in 2010, while already 150 had been killed this year, and that this is the first and only rhino to be killed in Swaziland in the past 20 years is a record every Swazi had to be proud of.”

Richardson explained that they could not rule out any outside influence in the murder, saying foreigners, could have thought Swaziland was a soft target for rhino poaching. He continued that whatever the case, local involvement could only be as a result of coaxing by outsiders.

“There is nowhere in the country a rhino horn can be sold, so local involvement could be a result of outside encouragement. But we are still exploring leads and cannot yet exactly say who could be involved while it was important that we look at all possibilities,” he said.

The Big Game Parks have put up an award of E10 000 to any person who can produce evidence that could lead to a conviction over the rhino murder.

On the other hand, Hlane MP Mduduzi Magagula also stated that he did not believe locals could be wholly involved in the grisly murder. The MP, whose constituency borders the Hlane Game Reserve, observed that residents only poached buck and Impala, from which they hoped to get meat to feed their families. He was adamant that South Africans could have come and used locals who had knowledge as to which part of the reserve the rhinos habited.

“But the truth is that the attack of the animals at the reserve is a direct attack on the Swazi national heritage. This is why the police and all concerned should not rest till the culprits are found and punished. I cannot dispute that locals used to poach rhinos, but that was long ago and they had since learnt their lesson, while realising the importance of such a heritage. Overall, I also send my condolences to Big Game Parks over such a sad development,” he said.

Source: Swazi Observer

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