Rare Win for Rhinos – Justice for Poached Animals

South Africa: Notorious Ndlovu Rhino Poaching Gang loses Appeal

Three convicted poachers of the notorious Ndlovu gang failed in their bid to appeal their 25 year sentences.  The High Court in Makhanda (Grahamstown) dismissed their appeal on all counts on Tuesday, 24 November 2020.

Conservationists and Wildlife lovers are celebrating this win for the Rhinos the world over.

In April 2016, Jabulani Ndlovu, Sikhumbuzo Ndlovu, and Forget Ndlovu were found in possession of more than 10kg of freshly cut rhino horn, a dart gun used to dispense the M99 immobilization drug, and a handsaw, still bloody from the latest poaching. Several mobile phones, SIM cards and rental cars were used in the poaching operations.

‘What made these poachers so dangerous is the fact that they used the Veterinary Drug, M99, to dart the rhinos, before cutting their horns off. The drug is not available to the public, and is a strictly controlled veterinary product’, says Paul Oxton , the Founder/Director of Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation, a South African Non-Profit Conservation Organization.

©Paul Oxton (WHWF)

Years after their arrest in 2016 at the Makana Resort, the Ndlovu gang was found guilty in April 2019 following lengthy court proceedings, on 55 charges relating to Poaching and Wildlife Crime. The court sentenced them to 25 years each. They immediately appealed their sentences. They are directly responsible for the killing of at least 13 Rhinos, using the veterinary immobilizing agent M99, to dart the animals and then hack off their horns.  More than 100 Rhinos had been poached using this method over several years, and it is highly likely that they are responsible for all of those incidents. Since the gang had been imprisoned, not a single poaching incident has been linked to M99 use.

‘This kind of sedation is not a full anaesthesia, and the animals were able to feel as their faces were chopped into. Rhinos sedated via M99 are unable to move, but are still fully aware. It incredibly traumatic and is probably one of the cruellest methods of poaching’, Carina Crayton (aka CJ Carrington) from Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation explained.

In carefully orchestrated operations, the gang would pose as wildlife-loving guests at the different Resorts, gather information about the locations of the animals, and then poach the rhinos in the targeted area. They were operating as a highly skilled, resourceful criminal unit.

Although it took justice four and a half years to finally catch up with these criminals, Rhino lovers are thrilled with the overturning of the gang’s sentencing appeal  - stating that it is very welcome news in the fight against rhino poaching.

In the case of the Ndlovu Gang, at least two of the rhinos they killed, were pregnant at the time. This counts as a double loss, but the foetuses are not recorded as additional poached animals in South Africa’s official poaching statistics.

It is not just the dead adult rhinos that form part of the tragedy of the poaching scourge in South Africa. The result of poaching for greed is that many rhino babies end up being orphaned. It is estimated that only one out of ten Rhino Orphans are rescued in time to try and save their lives, after their mothers had been poached.  These babies have usually endured severe trauma for many days, including blows from machetes, bullet wounds, and attacks by predators, and they often end up eating sand which in turn can be fatal. Rehabilitating these orphans is costly and takes many years. Often they just do not survive.  It is part of the on-going tragedy that is Rhino Poaching for their Horns - made of Keratin, like your fingernails.

“Nobody needs a Rhino Horn, but a Rhino” ~Paul Oxton (WHWF)

Justice will not bring back the dead rhinos, but it may act as a deterrent for greedy would-be criminals, and assist in a small way in safe-guarding these national treasures. For now, we have to protect and care for the survivors.

Read more about & support efforts to help raise these Rhino Orphans, by clicking here

Written by CJ Carrington, 25 November 2020 - Copyright: Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation


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