By Simon Bloch
Durban - The plight of the brutally de-horned rhino seen in the Kruger Park last week will be highlighted in the European Union, the tourists who took the pictures have vowed.
Speaking to the Daily News from the Drakensberg on Tuesday, tour leader Frans Lombard, who posted the picture on Facebook, said that the influential Belgian tourists in the two groups had vowed to do everything possible to stop the poaching. The tourists told him they would lobby the EU parliament, using the pictures and a video, to draw attention to poaching of rhino.
The shocking photograph showed the rhino had suffered immense trauma from the poachers’ instruments, leaving deep scar-tissue wounds on its face. Its eye appeared to have been gouged out.
Lombard, of Cape Town, said the sighting was especially traumatic to those who had only read or heard about the level of poaching overseas. Witnessing it first-hand touched them.
“We were on two open safari vehicles for the day and we were on our way out towards the Phabeni Gate.
“At about 3km from the gate this rhino came out of the bush from the right towards us and we thought ‘what a nice sighting’,” he said.
All of a sudden as the rhino came up to the vehicle they realised that its horns had been hacked off.
“I called her... she really came and looked for help and you could see she had a lot of pain. She was not solid on her feet, swerving sort of left to right, and she stood there and turned around for us to get a good look,” he said.
“I was totally flabbergasted, and as I told my clients: we hear about this, we read about it, and all of a sudden it’s a reality and she was right in front of us.
“She was in a really bad state, you could also see it was about two or three days old, that the wounds were covered in maggots and flies. Then she turned around slowly but surely and disappeared back in the bush.”
The safari guide phoned Pretoriuskop, who gave them the number for the anti-poaching unit, whom they phoned. The unit said it would immediately send out the helicopter, he said.
“It all happened so fast and we were all caught up in the drama of this whole thing and my clients were very upset over this.
“I work with a very high profile set of clients and all of them have connections in Europe and parliament over there, and they also said they are going to share this with their people.
They had just been to Mkuze, he said, and were leaving the Drakensberg today to go back to Cape Town via the Garden Route.
Heavy rains and thick growth have severely handicapped search efforts to locate the maimed white rhino.
According to Sanparks acting head of communications, Reynold Thakhuli, intensive search efforts to locate the animal began before day-break on Monday, but heavy rains hampered their efforts, which included teams of sniffer-dogs
While not specifying when the search would be called off, Thakhuli said that under normal circumstances vulture activity would indicate the location of the animal if it had already died.
“Our suspicion is that it might have succumbed to the pain and died and we suspect if that is the case, we may start seeing vultures’ and other scavengers’ activities in the next two days or so.”
The rain made it extremely difficult for an aerial search with the helicopter getting only a couple of hours clear enough to search.
On Tuesday morning he said the weather was still stormy, but rangers on the ground were still active and operational.
It is not known how much longer the rhino may survive without medical attention.