Crisis Zimbabwe Update – May 12, 2009

Some good news….. The black rhino called Juliet who was shot by poachers on March 30th (see update below from April 14) is looking strong and is likely to recover without need for veterinary intervention. Understandably she is still highly sensitive to any disturbance and has given the rhino monitors a few very close calls when they have tried to approach her to check on the bullet injury. Juliet is still returning to her calf’s carcass – as is Sinikwe who was also shot when poachers killed her calf.  Fortunately, in the area where Juliet lives, we have found no sign of the poachers returning (as has been the case in the area where Sinikwe lives). The fact that scouts found and shot at the poachers when they were trying to locate Juliet to finish her off on the 31st of March is no doubt a factor in this.

From left to right, Tandeka with her current calf, Cruiser, and Juliet.
From left to right, Tandeka with her current calf, Cruiser, and Juliet.

Sadly, we found two other rhino carcasses nearby Juliet’s calf carcass – a bull and a three year old sub-adult female. The female was the calf of one of Juliet’s grown up calves – Tandeka. Having confirmed four dead rhinos in the area, a search was conducted for the other resident rhinos. Scouting failed to locate any rhino spoor but no carcasses were found either, so the search was extended to a larger area. Eventually our trackers found spoor 10 km to the east of the rhinos’ normal range. It appears the entire sub-population – mostly Juliet’s now adult female calves and their calves – has moved en-mass. We have seen this before in other areas when heavy poaching losses have been sustained. Though we cannot be certain, it seems that when certain rhinos are killed (or, in this case, seriously distressed as Juliet probably is with the loss of her calf), the anchor of a social grouping of rhinos can be broken and they will move to new areas.

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