Skukuza – Since the beginning of the month, 16 rhino carcasses have been found in the Kruger National Park (KNP).
“Three of the rhinos were found dead but their horns were still intact. We don’t know what the cause was. It could be natural causes such as old age disease or they could have died in a fight. We will do a post-mortem on the animals,” said South African National Parks (SANParks) Senior Investigator for Environmental Crime Investigations, Frik Rossouw.
Speaking on Friday at the KNP during a media tour, Rossouw said 16 rhino carcasses have been found between 4 and 22 March, with two of the carcasses being older than two months.
The media were taken to the crime scene where an environmental inspector, a police detective and police forensic officer were present. A carcass, which was discovered a few days ago, had already started to rot and when it was opened, a bullet was discovered.
According to Rossouw, the police, who were present at the scene, are responsible for registering a docket, supplying a statement on what was found and the forensic officer collects evidence.
“Our role is to process the scene but the scene is a couple of days old so we won’t find much because hyenas, lions, vultures have been on the scene and they tend to carry evidence away with them or contaminate the scene. We won’t find a lot here apart from ballistics.
“If it’s a fresh scene, we process the scene ourselves, search the scene, find evidence and lastly we do a post-mortem on the animal to retrieve evidence -- not to establish cause of death because we are not veterinarians,” Rossouw said.
He said his team was also responsible for sampling the carcasses and samples are taken to the University of Pretoria where they are profiled and the DNA goes onto a database.
“The sampling process is captured on a tablet with software that can actually take you through the whole process from the location on the GPS. Photos of the scene are recorded on the tablet and photographing samples. It’s stored on the tablets and submitted to the lab,” Rossouw said.
According to figures released recently by Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, a total of 662 rhino carcasses were found in the KNP last year, compared to 826 in 2015. This represents a reduction of 19.85% in 2016.
A total of 148 firearms were seized inside the park in 2016, and six just outside the park
Meanwhile on Thursday, SANParks K9 Manager Johan De Beer said his unit was successful in apprehending poachers at the KNP and it was one of the largest anti-poaching units in the world with 53 dogs.
“We have one of the most successful units. Last year, we had about 200 arrests and the dogs were responsible for 168 of those arrests. They are doing very well. I don’t think we would be able to do the job without the dogs,” De Beer said.
He said the unit buys dogs that are already trained because KNP does not have the manpower for training.
“The price of a dog ranges from 35 000 to R50 000. If a handler needs to be trained, it will be a further R30 000. It’s quite expensive,” De Beer said. – SAnews.gov.za