By Charles Mkoka
Wire snares and traps set by poachers have cost the Malawian Department of National Parks and Wildlife three of the Critically Endangered Black Rhinoceros that were re-introduced 20 years ago after the species was declared extinct in Malawi.
The collapse of an electric solar-powered perimeter fence around a 14sq km sanctuary has created a loophole inside Liwonde National Park in the southern region district of Machinga, conservationists said. The lack of a fence, which was not built due to a wider financial scandal in Malawi dubbed “cashgate,” allowed poachers to enter the sanctuary.
The black rhinos, Diceros bicornis, were reintroduced from South Africa’s Kruger National Park through the Care for the Rare wildlife species program, initially supported by J&B Whisky and several business magnates.
Care for the Rare was an idea hatched following Malawi’s Black Rhino extinction after two of the last remaining animals were wiped out by armed poachers in Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve in 1991.
The proliferation of automatic assault rifles from the 16-year civil war in neighboring Mozambique is believed to be cause of the loss of Malawi’s last remaining population of rhinoceros, highly sought globally for their horns.
In an obituary statement following the loss of the three rhinos, Bentley Palmer, a lead member of the rhino monitoring team said the dead female, Justerini, together with the dead male, Brooks, were the original two rhinos brought back into Liwonde as part of Malawi’s Black Rhino re-introduction program. They arrived at Chileka airport on October 28, 1993 from Kruger National Park.
Justerini produced six calves during her 20 good years in Liwonde. However, on July 15, 2013, the rhino monitoring team sighted Justerini in the sanctuary, and when they started to track her they found she was dragging a massive gin trap on her left rear leg. They lost her tracks and even after days of searching she still managed to evade any contact with the monitoring team.
Ironically, on October 15, which is Mothers Day in Malawi, the carcass of this rhino mother was found by a rhino monitoring patrol two kilometres from a waterhole inside Liwonde National Park.
She died from the results of the gin trap snare, a steel spring trap which severed off her foot. More....