Rhino owner claims law favours poachers

24 October 2013 - 02:37 By SCHALK MOUTON

Multimillionaire John Hume believes the law is stacked against rhino owners, who, he says, sometimes have to risk their lives to protect their property.

Hume's son, Richard, appeared in the Malelane Magistrate's Court, in Mpumalanga, yesterday charged with attempted murder after shooting an alleged poacher on the Mauricedale game reserve, which the family owns, on September 24.

Hume, the biggest private rhino owner in South Africa, said that his son came across five men on the farm who had poached a warthog and a nyala on the reserve .

He shot at them and, though the circumstances of the shooting are still to be verified in court, one of the men - 28-year-old Sabelo Maphungla - was hit in the back of the head.

He was arrested along with two other men. The other two fled.

Said Hume: "I have a small army guarding my rhino and it is costing me a fortune every month.

But [the guards] are sh*t-scared of firing a shot at poachers because, if they were to hit them, they would also be charged with murder."

Mpumalanga police spokesman Brigadier Selvy Mohlala said the police viewed the matter as "serious" and "we believe he has a case to answer".

"The suspect was shot in the head and was rushed to hospital. He is still in hospital," said Mohlala.

Though most of Hume's rhinos have been moved to his farm in North West, there are still several on the Mpumalanga reserve on which the shooting took place.

Two weeks ago Hume lost a female rhino and her unborn female calf to poachers at his North West farm.

So far this year 746 rhino have been killed in this country, 63 in Mpumalanga.

Richard Hume's case was postponed to January 8 for further investigation.

The trial of the suspected poachers was postponed to November 6.