On the evening of Monday 20th February, Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage was targeted by a gang of seven poachers.
The gang subjected the rhino care workers to a horrific attack, one female staff member reportedly sexually assaulted, before turning their attention to the rhinos. Unfortunately two of the rhino orphans were left dead, Impy and Gugu, with their horns removed.
The horns of the babies were the largest in the orphanage, yet still really small as far as rhino horns go showing the extremes that poachers are going these days to secure the valuable horn to trade on the black market.
“As a rhino person who’s rehabilitating rhinos in this poaching crisis, you think that your worst fear is that one of the rhino that you’re working on is going to be shot or injured or killed,” Karen Trendler, the director of Thula Thula, said in an interview with journalist and conservationist Bonne de Bod . “So that worst nightmare was realised … it’s just beyond comprehension.”
Gugu immediately died after being shot, but Impy remained alive, despite being badly injured.
“They did deface him [Impy] while he was still alive, and it was so bad that he had to be euthanized,” Karen Trendler said
“Impy survived a particularly brutal poaching, he stayed at his mother’s carcass for six days, moving away just a short distance to eat … because he was obviously very hungry and very thirsty. And when he came in, I still remember so clearly, sitting with this tiny little rhino who was covered in blood splatter from where they shot the mom, and he smelled terribly of carcass fluids, and … that reality hitting me — this is what rhino poaching is about, this is what these little guys go through.”
“They were just a week away from the next stage for their return to the wild,” said Trendler
“One has to question why it [the attack] was so close to the move and to dehorning.”
This is not just a crime of rhino poaching, this is an attack on the civil liberties of law abiding, caring conservationists.
Born Free Patron and Actor Dan Richardson voiced his feelings on the incident
“The tragic and terrifying events at Thula Thula come as a deeply disturbing and unsettling shock. My first thoughts are of course with the heroes who shockingly and unexpectedly found themselves very much in harms way. To them I send my love, sincerest gratitude and deepest sympathy. In the aftermath, I am left wondering just how out of control things have to get before decisive, effective action is taken by governments and authorities. If a heinous and brutal attack on both animals and people at a supposed ‘safe haven’ for a critically endangered species isn’t enough to inspire action, I can’t imagine what is. ”
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Source: Helping Rhinos & Bonne de Bod.