Five days after the rhino was gunned down, its carcass had been picked apart by scavengers while the poachers who killed the threatened animal had probably taken its valuable horn over the South African border into Mozambique.
All that was left of its calf was a skull swarming with flies and a few other bones collected by crime scene investigators at South Africa's flagship Kruger National Park for DNA tests that may one day be used to link the poachers to the stolen horns.
South Africa, home to almost all rhinos on the continent, has deployed its military, diplomats and police to protect the animals from legions of poachers. But that has not been enough to put rhinos on the brink of species decline, whereby more of the animals are being killed than are being born each year.
"We are fighting a counter-insurgency now. The war is escalating. It is more aggressive and there is more firepower," said Johan Jooste, a retired army major general tasked with militarising Kruger's park rangers.
South Africa is on pace to lose 812 rhinos this year to poachers. Most of them come over the border from Mozambique and sell the horn to international crime syndicates to feed rapidly rising demand in Southeast Asia, where the horn is thought to cure cancer and tame hangovers.
That figure would set a record although it would still not be enough to lead to species decline.
However, more than 1,000 rhinos would be killed in 2014 if the poaching rate increases at its current pace. That would mean about five percent of South Africa's rhino population would have been gunned down for horns sold to the newly affluent at pharmacies in places like Hanoi at prices higher than gold.
"The rate of poaching continues to rise and we are getting ever closer to that dangerous tipping point," said Jo Shaw, the rhino coordinator for the global conservation agency World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
One rhino expert, Richard Emslie, sees the tipping point coming in 2015 under current trends. South Africa's environment ministry forecasts from 2016, and once that happens, wild rhinos could be wiped out in the country a decade after that. More....