KwaZulu-Natal - Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife chief executive Bandile Mkhize says investigations into the death of nine rhino found at the weekend will conclude on Friday with a final report scheduled for Monday when he will take action. “I will be guided by the report [on what to do next],” he said.
By Thursday East Coast Radio had raised more than R600 000 towards ensuring that air patrols over the iMfolozi and Hluhluwe game parks continue for the next three months.
Mkhize promised Ezemvelo would supply fuel for the chopper for the year.
He said the “investigation team” behind the report was made up of four people from “outside the organisation as well as from inside”.
The probe follows the discovery of nine poached rhinos in Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s parks last Saturday – World Rhino Day. Seven white rhino were found dead in the Hluhluwe Game Reserve last Saturday by an aerial patrol, one at Ndumo in northern KZN and one black rhino in the Isimangaliso Wetland Park.
And the assault on SA’s rhino has not let up: on Wednesday, four were killed for their horns at the Lalibela Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape, the private reserve said.
In February world conservation icon, Ian Player, and Mkhize appealed to corporates to help fund the operations of a Sikorski 300 helicopter. It was donated for patrolling the parks by Vincent Christoforous of Durban’s King Shaka Aviation. Due to a lack of response to the call for funds, the project came to a halt in April.
East Coast Radio’s KZN Rhino Watch project head Diane Macpherson, said they had noted the effectiveness of the helicopter patrols when they were still operating. “Poaching in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi park’s southern section was slashed by 50 to 80 percent.”
It costs R1.2 million to fund one chopper for a year, she said. ”Our dream is to raise enough money to get four choppers patrolling the entire province.”
Now Durban businessman Mark O’Brien from Acumen Capital, and someone who would only give her name as Kim have given R300 000 each.
O’Brien declined to be interviewed, saying he wanted his gift to remain “low key”.
As a result of the donations a helicopter left Durban on Wednesday and started patrolling the park on Thursday, the radio station said.
“The station has been inundated with calls from moms who say their children wanted to donate their pocket money. Schools wanted to get involved by pledging funds from cake sales and other fund-raising drives. Others have deposited money directly into the fund account set up by the Lawrence Anthony Earth Organisation,” East Coast Radio general manager Trish Taylor said.
The station also received endorsement for KZN Rhino Watch from the former Springbok rugby player James Small, and London-based celebrity chef Cyrus Todiwala.
Lauren Holley, spokeswoman for the radio station, said updates on the project would be aired on Wednesdays after the 9.30am news.
In the Eastern Cape, Vernon Wait, marketing director of the Lalibela Game Reserve, said a 28-year-old cow, an eight-year-old pregnant cow, an eight-year-old bull and a three-year-old male had been killed. It is thought they were poisoned before their horns were removed, as there were no bullet wounds.
The horns were “clinically cut off… very professional”. - The Mercury