Suspect sells rhino

18 July 2011 - 02:30 By NASHIRA DAVIDS
Image: Reuben Goldberg

The furore over Limpopo rhinos bought by game farmer Dawie Groenewald became so intense that he agreed to sell the three bulls the day he paid for them.

Groenewald and 10 others are suspected of being part of a poaching syndicate.

The rhinos Groenewald bought belonged to businessman Walter Ward, who was keeping them at a sanctuary run by the eBlockwatch Rhino Dream Team, a private network of individuals fighting poaching.

He had decided to sell them after three of his rhinos were poached and four were stolen from his game farm in Limpopo.

He sold three bulls to Groenewald and six cows to farmer and rhino breeder John Hume.

Because of the pending criminal case against Groenewald, conservationists, including Selomie Maritz, who cares for the rhinos, were concerned that the bulls might be in danger.

Limpopo DA leader Desiree van der Walt discovered that Groenewald was issued permits to hunt and transport rhino despite the case against him, and there was a public outcry.

On Friday morning, Ward said he had received payment for the animals from Groenewald and Hume.

But, on Friday afternoon, Hume said he had called Groenewald to propose that he buy the bulls from him and Groenewald had agreed.

Hume must obtain permits before taking possession of the animals.

Said Ward: "It was unacceptable to have lost R6.5-million worth of game in three months. I decided, instead of the rhinos getting mutilated . to have them moved to a safer place."

Groenewald refused to comment, but his lawyer, Thomas Grobler, said that despite "malicious" news articles labelling his client as a poacher and kingpin of a syndicate, he had not been charged with poaching.

"At this stage, we don't even know what he has been charged with; the prosecutor at the last court appearance specifically said she cannot say that he has unlawfully hunted any rhino."

SANParks spokesman Wanda Mkutshulwa said they were approached by a man who wanted to buy rhino and negotiated on behalf of another farmer.

"When delivery was supposed to happen, we were informed that these rhinos were not going to the farm that we approved . they were actually going to Groenewald," said Mkutshulwa.

"We decided to halt everything. Groenewald had been rejected by SANParks as a buyer because he doesn't meet the criteria to buy rhinos from us."

Groenewald and his co-accused have been charged with defeating the ends of justice, illegal possession of firearms and contravening the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act, the Prevention of Organised Crime Act and the Medicines and Related Substances Act.