June 1st, 2012 by Rhishja Cota-Larson
A rhino-killing attempt has been thwarted in India’s Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary, thanks to a joint team of forest guards and police.
India’s Business Standard reports that a four-member gang accessed the Diplung forest range to kill rhinos in the wee morning hours, but three were nabbed following an exchange of gunfire with forest guards.
TwoCircles.net adds that a .303 rifle and ammunition were recovered.
Rhinos killed in Tanzania
A mother rhino and her calf were slaughtered in Serengeti National Park, and apparently, the tragedy occurred nearly a month ago — but went unreported by park staff.
According to Reuters, four senior wildlife officials and 28 game wardens have now been suspended, including Serengeti’s chief warden and the acting director of the country’s national parks authority.
The female rhino was one of the five critically endangered Eastern black rhinos (Diceros bicornis michaeli) translocated to Tanzania from South Africa in May 2010, as part of the Serengeti Black Rhino Repatriation Project sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s “Wildlife Without Borders” program, along with international partners.
Only three of the five rhinos are still alive, as “George” was killed for his horns in December 2010.
A statement released by USFWS shortly after George’s murder said that plans to translocate another 27 black rhinos to Tanzania were being “re-assessed”.
Arrests in Southern Africa
Meanwhile, Angola Press released the name of a Vietnamese national arrested in Mozambique with seven rhino horns.
Doan Minh was headed to Hanoi via Bankok on a Kenya Airways flight when he was apprehended at Maputo’s main airport.
At least two suspects were arrested this week in South Africa for dealing in rhino horns.
In South Africa, a suspect identified by IOL as Dennis Struis was arrested for attempting to sell a rhino horn and was released on R5000 bail. He is expected to appear in court on July 24th.
Another suspect, Johan Masakwani Mundhlovu, was arrested and his case postponed until July 7th. Police confiscated a rhino horn, copper cables, two butcher knives, an axe and a 9mm pistol with twelve rounds of ammunition.
In addition, a gang of four suspects arrested in 2011 and linked to six rhino killings at Thabazimbi, Pienaarsrivier, Mokopane and Naboomspruit appeared in court.
The South African Police Service (SAPS) says that Chico Malesa, Johannes Malesa (brothers), Innocent Matjakesa and Archford Moyo are in custody while they await another appearance scheduled for June 19th.
Finally, South African safari operator Marnus Steyl, professional hunter Harry Claassens, and their Thai accomplices will be in court on Monday, June 4th.
Steyl and three Thai nationals — Chumlong Lemtongthai, Punpitak Chunchom and Tool Sriton — were arrested last year for using prostitutes to pose as trophy hunters in an illegal rhino horn laundering scheme.
Claassens was arrested earlier this month, and Steyl has also been linked to South Africa’s lion bone trade.
At least 227 rhinos have been killed in South Africa since the beginning of the year.
One-horned rhinos of Asia
Although once widespread throughout Asia, from Pakistan to the Myanmar border and possibly into southern China, greater one-horned rhinos (Rhinoceros unicorns) now exist in just two countries: India and Nepal.
Thanks to the efforts of the International Rhino Foundation and their partners, the population of greater one-horned rhinos is on the rise.
IRF’s efforts to increase rhino numbers are also underway in Indonesia, home to the world’s only known population of Javan rhinos (Rhinoceros sondaicus) — which is close to just 40 individuals. Vietnam’s subspecies of Javan rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus) was declared extinct in 2011.
At one time, Javan rhinos were found throughout Southeast and Southern Asia and southern China.
Learn more about IRF’s work with these two rhino species — and how you can help — in this exclusive interview with the Executive Director of IRF, Dr. Susie Ellis:
The podcast of “Saving the One-Horned Rhinos of Asia” is also available on iTunes.
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