Poaching stats just the tip of the horn

Dr Johan Marais - Saving the Survivors

WHITE RIVER – The actual rhino-poaching statistics for 2014 are higher than the official tally and the number of rhino killed could be as many as 1 700, experts say.

Official statistics don’t include all that have been poached, but only those found to have been dehorned.

Save the Survivor, a non-governmental organisation linked to Onderstepoort, says the official statistics don’t include baby rhino that died after mothers were poached, nor do they include rhino that died during botched poaching attempts when the poachers were unable to remove the horn.

It also excludes cases where the horn has been removed, but the rhino survived the attack.

But that is not all, says Dr Johan Marais, equine and wildlife surgeon at Onderstepoort, who is also a member of Saving the Survivors.

“Last year we were called out to a farm in North West where 12 rhino had been poached. It was two bulls and 10 cows. All 10 cows were with calf and I know they were not included in the count. It should have been 22 rhino poached. That is why I am saying at least 30 per cent should be added to the official statistics.”

Dr Johan Marais - Saving the Survivors

Dr Johan Marais – Saving the Survivors

He added that it was common for calves to be left to fend for themselves after their mothers had been shot, nearly always resulting in certain death as they related on their mother’s milk until they were 18 months old.

The organisation is taking on an increasing number of injured, orphaned and adult rhino and giving them a second chance.

Saving the Survivors is not an anti-poaching organisation. It was specifically started in 2012 to care for and look after rhino that had fallen victim to poaching or traumatic incidents, with the help of veterinarians and conservationists.

From 80 to 120 rhino are estimated to benefit from the project every year but this number will increase as more and more rhino are poached.

Saving the Survivors is headed by two top veterinary surgeons in South Africa, namely Marais and Dr Gerhard Steenkamp.

A few animals are brought in to Onderstepoort, but most are being treated in the bush in their natural environment as transporting them when injured is often not possible or feasible.

“Maybe the official statistical evidence of poaching should be called horn statistics and not poaching statistics”.

Lowvelder posed questions to the ministry about the issue last week when 2014’s official rhino-poaching statistics were announced, but these were left unanswered.

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