On Sunday, May 10th, our rhino monitors were tracking a black rhino cow called Three and her 12 month old calf. Quietly moving through the bush, they noticed movement about 100 yards away – two armed poachers also tracking the same cow calf pair. They immediately radioed for National Parks and anti-poaching guard support, as our rhino monitors are not armed. Once linked up with armed guards, they moved in on the spoor trail again and found the poachers had actually lost the rhinos tracks and were now scouting in circles trying to relocate them. The follow-up team split – one to follow the poachers and the other to follow the rhinos. Less than a mile away the cow and calf had laid down for their midday nap. If the poachers had not lost their spoor, they would almost certainly have been killed. The rhinos’ tracks indicated that they had quietly gotten up from their rest and browsed while moving north. The poachers had continued circling to their south. Unfortunately the anti-poaching unit never caught up with the poachers, as tracking human spoor in long dry grass is a very difficult task.
Two days later, the same shoe patterns as seen on Sunday were located following three rhinos – this time a cow with a large calf and a bull. The bull was with the cow to mate and so there was a lot of movement with this group and little rest time to give poachers a chance to catch up. Fortunately again, the poachers did not get close enough to shoot these rhinos, but they remained in the same area and our concern was that the poachers would definitely search for these animals again over the weekend. Extra patrols were deployed in the hope that the poachers – seeing fresh footprints of anti-poaching scouts in the area – would think better of pursuing these animals again.
Sinikwe, our wounded black rhino cow, is now settling down after her shooting and monitors are able to get more than a fleeting glimpse of her. She has a new companion – a young bull with no ear-notches who is a previously unrecorded rhino to us. With any luck, these two will stay together and we will capture them both for translocating. Jiros, Sinikwe’s brother, is still in the area.
We have also had a new addition recorded. Angeline, a 15 year old black rhino cow had a new calf last month. With the calf so small, the mother is very protective and keeping to very thick bush so the monitors were not able to get any clear photos.