Nasty, brutish and short

26 October 2016 - 09:45 By GRAEME HOSKEN

Broken Tusk stands firm, ears flapping in anger. The six-ton elephant refuses to budge, jealously guarding his bales of lucerne. His enemies are not, for now, poachers. It's three starving rhinos. For months they have scrounged for food. Now that it's arrived they are desperate, and won't back down in reaching it, not even for an elephant.Thousands of wild animals on South African game farms face a similar plight.A year of drought has devastated the vegetation. It's left thousands of kilometres of bushveld barren. Kudu, giraffe, zebra and antelope are dying like flies.A brief respite has come through the help of endangered animal relief agency Boots on the Ground, which is delivering feed supplies to wildlife farms in Limpopo and Gauteng. They delivered four tons of lucerne and rhino pellets to game farms in three days.But for many it's too late."It's too horrible to watch," says Delia del Maan*.Del Maan, a Limpopo wildlife game farmer, has lost 24 of her animals to starvation."The kudus, especially the bulls, die first. They are weak. Their horns are too heavy for them to stand. It's the same with the rhinos. We try to help, but if we can't ... we have to end their pain."She said what alarmed them now was how their rhinos associated vehicle sounds with food.It's evident. When the Boots on the Ground team stops near rhinos, they rush to the vehicle."[This] makes it even easier for poachers," says Del Maan.Francois Meyer, of Wildheart Conservation, said their animals were dying fast."It's so bad we had to auction off some of our game. The money bought feed, but that's run out."He looks on at the rhinos as they face off against Broken Tusk."It comes down to this. Animals that won't usually fight each other for food are bitter enemies. People are putting down their animals."Rhino farm owner Howard Knott said grazers, like rhinos, were the first to die."Most lucerne sellers are out of stock and those that have, ration their feed. This relief is a huge help," he said.Normal rainfall is usually in November "but we are so desperate we cannot wait until then".For the agency's head, Suzanne Boswell Rudham, it's all about helping the animals."We made calls for help and people opened their hearts. The problem is its not enough to help all those desperately in need. With calving season approaching we will now provide milk for the young."* Not her real name. The names of the game farms, which all have rhinos, have been withheld for security reasons.

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