Wildlife vet shares emotional experience on brutal rhino killings
While the notorious Ndlovu poaching gang received hefty sentences on Wednesday, a wildlife vet in SA paid tribute to two of the rhinos they were found guilty of poaching.
The three members, Zimbabwean citizens Jabulani Ndlovu, 41, Forget Ndlovu, 38, and SA citizen Sikhumbuzo Ndlovu, 39, were each sentenced to an effective 25 years in prison.
The rhino gang were sentenced in the Grahamstown high court for their role in decimating the rare rhino population in the Eastern Cape.
They were convicted of about 55 criminal counts involving the poaching of 13 rhinos over a four-year period in the province.
Wildlife vet William Fowlds, who spends his time documenting his personal testimony of the brutal reality of poaching from the coalface, shared his feelings in a Facebook post ahead and after the sentencing.
"Pride, a rhino bull whose tears we will never forget," Fowlds writes in his post.
Pride miraculously survived when he woke up during the attack.
"By this point in their crime spree, the Ndlovus had refined their technique to sawing off horns in a way that limited the mess of blood, skin and bone fragments.
"After darting Pride, they sawed his front horn off high enough to miss any sensitive tissues but when they started on his back horn, the illegal drugs they used were not enough to keep him down and the first cut into his horn-bed woke him up and miraculously, he got away," Fowld wrote.
He said his companion, a female named Justice, did not survive the ordeal.
Many who have witnessed the waste and the mutilation left behind by (poachers) will quietly find their faces wet with tears at the extent of the loss and tragedy of it allDr William Fowlds
According to Fowlds, Justice was left for dead in a pool of blood and the men made off with her body parts.
"We choose to honour her today [Wednesday], not because she means more than the other victims but because her name was JUSTICE and today Justice is finally served."
He said the sentencing of the Ndlovus would never bring Justice back, but "today is the day for Justice".
"Punishment for the 55 charges the Ndlovus were found guilty of will not bring her back to life and although many will celebrate the punishment that fits these crimes, many who have witnessed the waste and the mutilation left behind by this ruthless gang will quietly find their faces wet with tears at the extent of the loss and tragedy of it all.
"They will cry with Pride for the 13 that the law has found them guilty of, but their hearts find no solace for those that died and whose deaths have yet to be acknowledged in court, and maybe never will.
"May she finally find rest and peace and may the spirit of Justice live on, growing stronger with every poaching arrest."
Fowlds received tremendous support from other social media users.
"I often think that mother nature made a mistake letting humans thrive and ruin the planet," a comment read.
A second comment read: "Thank you for those beautiful words, Dr William."
"Heartbreaking," said another. "Thank you to everyone fighting endlessly for these amazing animals and all the creatures suffering at the hands of humans."
The Eastern Cape police commissioner, Lt-Gen Liziwe Ntshinga, has welcomed the "hefty sentence" imposed on the gang for more than 55 counts of rhino poaching between 2013 and 2016.
A team of investigators under the leadership of Cpt Morne Viljoen investigated the case which led to the conviction of the trio in March 2019, she said.
Ntshinga said the SA Police Service (SAPS) made a major breakthrough in curbing rhino poaching when they arrested the trio in June 2016 at a chalet at the Makana Resort, Grahamstown.
"The arrest was the direct result of Operation Full Moon, which mainly focused on curbing rhino poaching incidents in the province," she said.
The case that led to their arrest was a rhino poached at Bucklands Private Game Reserve.
During the arrest, police seized a 72cm rhino horn which had been "freshly harvested"; a darting rifle and drugs to dart animals with; saws and knives; a variety of camping gear and rations; and several cellphones. Their two rental vehicles were also seized.
Ntshinga commended what she said was the meticulous and professional investigation by the team of investigators and the collaboration between the police and National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) which led to the lengthy prison term.
"The sentence is the outcome of the SAPS's unwavering commitment in the fight against wildlife crimes which are interlinked with organised crime. The diligence of the investigators and other specialised disciplines of the SAPS together with the NPA did not go unnoticed in this landmark case," she said.
"I am also elated that the three suspects were stopped in their tracks by the Eastern Cape investigators after being linked to more than 10 rhino poaching incidents across the country at the time of their arrest. Since their arrest, the Eastern Cape has not had an incident of rhino poaching where a rhino is darted. We will continue to arrest and break the backbone of rhino poaching incidents in the province."