*This article contains graphic details that may disturb sensitive readers.
No one could have prepared Searl Derman, owner of Inverdoorn Private Game Reserve for the horror he and his staff would witness on Wednesday night after four rhinos (including one pregnant female) were found massacred.
On their regular patrols, the 24 hour Anti-Poaching Unit found the horrific scene of four shot rhino, and the initial scene assessment found that two rhinos had already succumbed to their injuries. According to a statement, the remaining two were heavily injured but still alive.
The team reportedly acted swiftly as the fifth rhino was missing, and tracking operations were immediately activated on the private game reserve. Management, conservation teams, wildlife veterinarians, law enforcement and others were notified and dispatched to the scene.
“Allegedly, large calibre rifle rounds from silenced weapons were identified on the scene and patrols were intensified to protect all against the heavily armed perpetrators,” the statement reads.
The Anti-Poaching Unit then confirmed the death of the two injured rhinos, but tracked down the fifth rhino who had been shot in the face but still alive.
Owner of Aquila Collection, Searl Derman said that he is “horrified to relive this nightmare! As with our previous poaching incident at Aquila Private Game Reserve in 2011, we will again commit to sparing no expense or effort in the pursuit to catch and bring justice to these vicious perpetrators who massacred our rhino.”
In response to the 2011 rhino poaching incident at Aquila Private Game Reserve, the company initiated the Saving Private Rhino NGO and acquired the oldest gun shop in the city of Cape Town. The City Guns business is instrumental in supporting the Anti-Poaching and Rhino Response teams of not only the Aquila Collection, but other private game reserves in South Africa.
“We are starting by offering a R100 000.00 reward for confidential information that will lead to the successful arrest of the criminals that brought much heartache and loss to the staff and management of this unique Western Cape private game reserve,” Derman adds.
Over the years, Saving Private Rhino have also been valuable in various other rhino poaching investigations and the arrest of poachers – including the syndicate that attacked and killed the Aquila rhinos in 2011.
“We can assure you that we have already instituted a private forensic investigative team and private investigators on a local, regional and national level and we will vigorously pursue these poachers”, Derman added: .
This traumatic incident comes at a time when the tourism industry and the private game lodges of South Africa are already affected by continued international travel bans.
A wildlife veterinarian team under the leadership of Johan Marais has been dispatched to assess the injuries of the fifth maimed rhino and they are considering facial reconstructive surgery as a matter of priority.
The statement goes on to say that while the Aquila Collection doesn’t encourage rhino dehorning, Inverdoorn Private Game Reserve has previously gone through the process to dehorn rhino and replace the horns with synthetic horns. One of the slaughtered rhino had a realistic and lifelike fiberglass horn with zero value to these poachers.
All crime scene and investigative information remains confidential as a manhunt and investigation has already been launched.
The reserve is creating a reward for information and inviting the public and concerned citizens to make donations towards the private investigation, forensic teams, medical and vet bills, training, staffing, and rewards that we plan to offer to motivate informants to provide information. Please visit https://www.payfast.co.za/donate/go/aquila/ to donate.
The public and any other supporting services can make contact via [email protected], +27(0)83 441 2826, or send information via the Saving Private Rhino Facebook page message facility.
Picture: Aquila Collection