Nine rhinos massacred in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park
Publish date: 16 May 2017
Issue Number: 507
Diary: Legalbrief Environmental
Nine fresh rhino carcasses have been found at the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, SA’s oldest game reserve and the cradle of global rhino conservation. According to a News24 report, the mid-week massacre confirms fears that the historical park has become the new ground zero in the battle to save the species, rapidly matching casualties sustained by Kruger National Park. This is despite the fact the domestic ban on rhino horn trade was effectively lifted when the Constitutional Court, in April, rejected a government appeal to preserve a 2009 ban on the domestic trade. Conservationists have warned that the lifting of the moratorium would spell a full-out onslaught by illegal poaching syndicates, putting the country's already battered rhino population at huge risk. All traces of the missing horns have disappeared, raising the spectre that multiple groups of poachers were involved in the latest incidents which occurred during the full moon cycle known as ‘poachers' moon’. The DA’s Francois Rodgers said: ‘This latest massacre of our rhinos at the province’s flagship park points to government’s pathetically poor response to thwart organized crime and ignoring the needs of our much under-resourced conservation organisation, Ezemvelo KZNW.’
In other rhino poaching news: One of five men accused of conspiring to poach a rhino from the Inkwenkwezi private game reserve last week has turned state witness. According to a Daily Dispatch report, Simon Fakude was not in the East London Magistrate’s Court last week when his co-accused – including his brother Christopher Fakude – as well as Ernest Mdluli, Mlungisi Lekhuleni and Ntobeko Kumkani appeared to make formal bail applications. State prosecutor Lerato Phakisi told presiding bail Magistrate Nazeem Joemath that Fakude was not in court as charges against him were withdrawn in exchange for sensitive evidence that will implicate the four men. They were arrested by members of the East London Dog Unit and Green Scorpions after being cornered on the East Coast Resort road near Chintsa on 30 March. They had incriminating evidence of rhino poaching tools in their car. Legal Aid SA attorney Wandisile Mgangxela, who is representing Kumkani, pressed for the bail hearing to proceed. Phakisi asked the court to postpone the hearing until a Swati interpreter was appointed on behalf of Fakude, Mdluli and Lekhuleni. The three hail from Mpumalanga. Joemath postponed the bail application in order to find an interpreter and for a lawyer to be appointed for the other three men.