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Sat Dec 20 09:13:39 SAST 2014

Dying rhino saves her calf

SCHALK MOUTON | 26 November, 2012 00:29
Longhorn, a 24-year-old cow, was among the eight rhino slaughtered by poachers at Finfoot Lake Reserve, North West. The cavity in the body is the result of a postmortem examination in search of ballistic evidence. File photo.
Image by: DANIEL BORN

When Longhorn, the pride of the Finfoot Game Reserve, realised she was going to die, she led her 18-month-old calf to the farm's lodge, where she knew he would be safe.

Longhorn was among the eight rhino on the reserve slaughtered by poachers.

Their killing spree lasted between three and four days.

Maggot-covered carcasses dot the landscape for a distance of about 5km . A calf lies next to its mother, b utchered for its 3cm horn .

When Miles Lappeman heard from his son, Mark, that rhino poachers had hit the farm, the first question he asked was: "What about Longhorn?"

With her three foot-long horn, Longhorn, a cow of 24 years, was the pride of the Finfoot Game Reserve in North West, about 30km South of Sun City.

She was the first animal Miles bought from the Natal Parks Board, and the reason he spent 25 years caring for his breeding herd of White Rhino on his farm.

He let out a huge sigh of relief when he learned that Longhorn was not among the seven rhino found killed.

But on Monday Longhorn's body was discovered 300m from the farm's lodge. She had suffered a mortal wound to her stomach.

Her calf has been taken to a place of safety.

Since the slaying, a group of seven men has been working around the clock to protect the remainder of the herd, with the help of Mark Prangley, an anti-poaching operator. Lappeman says it is inevitable that the poachers will return.

"Its not 'if', it's 'when'.

"We are fighting a bush war against trained professionals, with people who are not trained for it," he says.

Mark Lappeman grew up with the animals .

"To see animals dead on the farm is like walking into your home and seeing a relative lying dead. It's soul- destroying."

"We are losing this war and people who think there is a quick fix are living in denial," said Pelham Jones, chairman of the SA Rhino Owners' Association.

Prangley, however, proposes a practical solution: "Kill the poachers."

SHUNNED BY BUYERS

A LIVE rhino would until recently sell for R500000 but the market has collapsed to between R100000 and R200000 per animal.

Rhino horn is sold at an estimated $60000/kg (about R532000/kg).

Weighing between 5kg and 6kg, the horn of Longhorn - a 24-year-old rhino killed last week - would be worth between R2.66-million and R3.18-million.

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