On Monday, March 30th, Zimbabwean scouts, responding to shots, located poachers’ tracks, following a group of three rhinos — a bull, cow and calf. The rhino group split up and the poachers followed the spoor of the large bull. Tracking through the afternoon, the scouts eventually caught up to the bull rhino. Sadly, he had already been shot and was laboring through his last breaths. It was too late to save him. Expecting the poachers to return to recover the horn, the scouts sat in ambush, but then just as darkness fell, they heard a single shot to the south. The poachers did not return to the bull carcass to recover the horns overnight, so the scouts moved south at first light and soon picked up the poachers tracks again, and this time caught up with them. Shots were fired, but the poachers escaped through the thick bush. A search of the area located the carcass of a twelve-month-old female calf. The trampled bushes around the carcass indicated that the mother had been agitatedly standing by as her calf died. This is where the poachers had returned the evening before – having shot the calf when they shot the bull earlier in the day, they knew the mother would stay by her dying calf. The last shot at dark was aimed at the calf’s mother – Juliet.
Juliet has been located and has a single bullet wound to the neck. Fortunately,she is moving and feeding normally and the wound does not appear to be too deep, so her chances for survival are very good. The search for the poachers continues – matching tracks were found over the weekend, moving into a neighboring property.
Poachers are relentlessly hunting down rhinos for their horns, which fetch thousands of dollars on the black market. The largest set of horns are from the bull shot on March 30th – his name was Towla. The small set are from Juliet’s calf. The third set are from a three year old female also likely shot by the same gang of poachers. Although the rangers were unable to save these rhinos, they were at least able to remove the horns before the poachers could return to retrieve them, preventing the poachers from profiting from these deaths. The Lowveld Rhino Trust believes this gang is responsible for at least 10 black rhino deaths in the last 6 months.