WPS’ South African project manager Pierre Blignaut’s account of his recent experience in the bush witnessing the poaching of a rhino. Since this was written, another rhino was shot at the same reserve. This occurred at a location where we were conducting a site survey. Hopefully the future install of our early detection system will alert rangers to poachers on the land and save this from happening again.
At Wildlife Protection Solutions, we have the great opportunity to take part in so much of what nature has to offer, whether it is the sun rising over the African bush or the discovery of a new unknown species in Indonesia. Every day is a new day and every hour something new materializes.
Early mornings before daybreak you can hear the diverse chirps of birds in the distance. This might be a territorial male letting everyone in the area know he’s awake and this is his home. Like the saying goes, the early bird catches the worm, right?
Far away you can hear the roar of a lion also saying good morning to all and letting his family know he is making his way back from his territorial ventures.
Spiders big and small, some busy repairing their webs for the day, others like the bark spider, packing up after a long night shift.
Literally everywhere you look you can see and hear how the bush awakens to a new exciting day, to do what they do best, survive and reproduce in their natural environment. All in their own way help with the sustainability of a well-balanced ecosystem.
Then Gunshot. All come to a standstill. For a split second nothing moves. Even the spider stops working due the vibrations it feels on its web. All of nature must know that man is awake as well.
The call of man is not a call of excitement but a call of terror and fright. Nevertheless, after a couple of seconds all turn back to what they were busy with, almost like they know what it was but they won’t be able to do anything about it.
WPS recently came face to face with one such brutal event that went down after the call of man was heard.
A rhino cow was shot, one shot 375 caliber frontal. The heart and lungs hit by the way she was oozing blood, from where she was standing to literally 12 yards further where she went down. Arriving at the scene it was noted that this same cow was a survivor of a previous encounter with poachers. There are small rhino calf tracks, smaller than a human hand in her blood on the ground. This is just causing so much more pain; the calf must be somewhere close and has returned numerous times to see when his mother is going to get up from her normal 15 to 30 minute nap.
Generally the calves stay in the vicinity and do not have a lot of time before they start to dehydrate and die due to kidney failure. In times like this where the grass is still very short, they try to eat but they also consume a lot of sand and breathe in a lot of dust causing all sorts of respiratory complications. The calf needs to be located immediately. When called, they will come to almost anyone, excited, bouncing up and down. and sometimes making a soft squealing sound. The worst and unfortunately the most usual case is when the poachers are busy axing the horn of the mother, the calves might be a nuisance and might receive a blow or two from the machetes, severely injuring them.
Luckily, this time, the calf was found a day later, a little dehydrated, and was moved to a rhino orphanage and rehabilitating centre. We will keep you informed of the calf’s progress.
Standing next to a brutal crime scene like this opens emotions in you that you never thought you had. You can’t help imagining how the whole event took place, the trauma and the fear for the animals, and the sheer atrocity of poaching.
Wildlife Protection Solutions supports and stands with the people on the ground at the parks and reserves, as well as the people behind the scenes who are taking part in ending this brutality.
Each day we can all ask ourself one question. Who am I? The person sitting watching the world go by like a reality show or the person doing something to help.
Current number of rhinos poached in South Africa in 2016
– 702 (official, Sept.)
– 915 (official estimate, Nov.)
Remember for every step humans take in nature we are changing it. Make sure you can fix it.