According to South Africa’s Jacaranda 94.2, Walter Nkuna was the manager of Atherstone Nature Reserve where five rhinos were recently shot.
Nkuna apparently allowed three Mozambican men into the reserve, after telling “field rangers not to come to work over the weekend, as there were no funds available to pay them overtime.”
Police suspect that the gun Nkuna turned on himself had previously been used to kill rhinos.
Two of the rhinos are confirmed dead and the other three have not yet been located.
Nkuna is not the first suicide linked to the illegal rhino horn trade.
In 2010, suspect Tommy Fourie is said to have shot himself after facing charges of selling rhino horns to Jacques Els (of the Thabazimbi Game Reserve).
Els was recently sentenced to eight years in prison; he made bail and is expected in court again in July.
South Africa’s rhino death toll rises
South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs has announced that 135 rhinos have been massacred since the beginning of the year.
75 of the 135 rhinos were killed in the country’s famed Kruger National Park, where a suspect was shot dead last week.
South Africa has arrested 89 people for rhino crimes this year, while a total of 232 were arrested in 2011.
Rhino expert Karen Trendler cautions that South Africa could lose its rhinos by 2050.
Trendler — a wildlife specialist with 25 years experience in wildlife rescue, rehabilitation, crisis management, wildlife welfare and ethics — recently launched the Rhino Response Strategy in partnership with Endangered Wildlife Trust.
The project provides a rapid intervention and coordinated rescue response network for orphaned rhino calves, with the aim of rehabilitating the rhinos and returning them to the wild.
Auction ‘highlight’ fails to deliver
Meanwhile, a certain set of five antique Chinese rhinoceros horn cups apparently failed to deliver.
This is the set of cups which were appraised last year for a “record-breaking” dollar amount on the TV show “Antiques Roadshow”, as seen in the video:
Touted as the “highlight” of Sotheby’s New York auction on Tuesday, the “collection” was expected to fetch $1.5 million.
However, the sales results posted on Sotheby’s website shows that only two of the five cups sold: Lot 194 for $146,500 and Lot 197 for $182,500.
The New York Post noted that the cups might have been “overvalued”.
A photo of the rhino horn cups posted on Sotheby’s Facebook page attracted a barrage of comments from people opposed to the sale (myself included).
As of this writing, the photo and comments can still be viewed here.
Learn more about the link between rhino horn antiques, auctions, and rhino killings here.
Wonderful news! India’s census of its greater one-horned rhinos has revealed population increases in both Orang National Park and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary.
The rhino count in Kaziranga National Park is expected to be completed early next week.