Ri­etvlei shocked as ‘old­est res­i­dent’ Ma Kooi killed

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - GOITSEMANG TLHABYE

WHEN for­mer Pre­to­ria News chief pho­tog­ra­pher Pa­tri­cia Ha­gen took her chil­dren to Ri­etvlei Na­ture Re­serve on Fri­day, she hoped to spot the cheetah Kiara and her cubs.

In­stead, a line of po­lice cars and a posse in the veld drew her to the killing site of one of the re­serve’s old­est res­i­dents, a rhino know as Ma Kooi.

The City of Tsh­wane, un­der which the re­serve falls, con­firmed that the car­cass of the fe­male rhino, be­lieved to be over 40 years old, was dis­cov­ered on Fri­day by per­son­nel in the re­serve. It is be­lieved the rhino had been shot and killed three or four days ear­lier.

Agri­cul­ture and en­vi­ron­ment man­age­ment MMC Michael Mkhari said it ap­peared that the poach­ers had been un­aware that the rhino did not have a horn as it, and other rhi­nos in Ri­etvlei, are de­horned.

He said the in­ci­dent had been re­ported to the SAPS, and in­ves­ti­ga­tions, with the as­sis­tance of a vet­eri­nar­ian and of­fi­cials from the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment, were un­der way.

A case of ma­li­cious dam­age to prop­erty and dis­charge of a firearm is also be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by the Lyt­tel­ton po­lice for an ear­lier in­ci­dent on July 1.

“The rhino was found limp­ing, and upon close ex­am­i­na­tion, it was dis­cov­ered that it was shot and wounded in a pos­si­ble poach­ing at­tempt,” po­lice said. The rhino sur­vived.

Ri­etvlei, a re­serve within the bor­ders of Pre­to­ria, is much loved by its res­i­dents for its easy ac­cess to game. The city man­age­ment de­horns the rhi­nos in the re­serve, with the last round done just a few months back.

Friends of the re­serve on so­cial me­dia were ask­ing for iden­ti­fy­ing pho­tos of the rhi­nos to check on them, while oth­ers ex­pressed con­cern.

Ha­gen said in a heart­felt Face­book post that she and her chil­dren were shat­tered by what they saw. “My de­pres­sion deep­ens when con­tem­plat­ing rhi­nos’ chances of sur­vival and the knowl­edge that they will never be safe, no mat­ter what.”

Ha­gen, a re­spected an­i­mal pho­tog­ra­pher, said she would be thank­ful for ev­ery sin­gle rhino that she man­ages to see and take pho­tos of.

Mkhari said the city was dis­mayed that Ri­etvlei was be­ing tar­geted again de­spite their ef­forts to pre­vent poach­ing by de­horn­ing the an­i­mals.

No ar­rests had been made but the city has beefed up se­cu­rity at the re­serve.

It does, how­ever, re­main open to the public.

In May last year, the re­serve was closed to the public fol­low­ing the slaugh­ter and de­horn­ing of two of its rhi­nos, one of which was preg­nant at the time.

In Oc­to­ber 2013, five heav­ily armed sus­pected rhino poach­ers were ar­rested just as they were about to en­ter the re­serve. Three years be­fore that, two rhi­nos were killed by poach­ers.

Re­cently, how­ever, it had been felt the rhi­nos were not un­der threat, and when a rhino cow was not seen for a pe­riod, it turned out to be be­cause she had de­liv­ered a calf.

The Stop Rhino Poach­ing web­site listed the num­ber of rhino mor­tal­i­ties at 483 as of June 13, as an­nounced in the Na­tional Assem­bly.

Mean­while, Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager Musa Mn­tambo has con­firmed that two sus­pected poach­ers were killed at the week­end in a gun­bat­tle with rangers at the Hluh­luwe uM­folozi Park.

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