A Poachers Moon

Where once I stared up at the full moon with wonder and appreciation, I now feel differently. The full moon faze is known in the bush as the poachers moon. The brightness of the moon makes it easier for poachers to make their way through the bush without the risk of using artificial light.

Now I look at the moon and I feel fear and sadness for what I know is happening. But I still have a definite appreciation for those out there every night, protecting the animals.

But it is not an easy fight. On the first day Chrisjan reported back to the head office. But he was swept away immediately to assist in the autopsy of a poached white rhino. It had been a fairly big bull of about 20-25 years who’s horn was removed cleanly and professionally. The full moon faze has started and all hands were on deck.

Not two days later they were called in from the field for another white rhino autopsy and were barely finished with that one when alerted of another. The second one had been lying for about 6-7 days and it was one of the most gruesome autopsy’s done yet. Maggots spilled from her and the heat that came off her rotting flesh made even the most experienced of men gag. Both of their horns had been removed in a similar fashion to the first.

Every rhino lost is a sadness but on day five the weight of the loss was even heavier. They had been called out to a reserve for an autopsy of a black rhino cow. Now understand that there are only about 5 000 black rhino’s left in the world compared to the 20 000 white rhino’s left. And all these numbers are declining rapidly.

The greatness of the loss of this cow was clear on the face of the land owner. She had been his prize cow with a beautiful calm nature towards all that set foot on his reserve.

Her horn had been carelessly hacked off, indicating inexperienced poachers. As they were busy with her autopsy, another one was discovered a mere 50m away. It had been the prize cow’s sub-adult calf of about 3 years old. Blood spatters on her flank indicates that she had been next her mother when she was shot but tried to make a run for it. She had not gotten far when she was shot down and her horn hacked off. Unfortunately she had not been killed immediately by the shot and was still conscious and struggling while they were hacking off her tiny horn, in the process taking off half of her face. This was indicated by the deep cuts in her back as they hit her with the panga in an attempt to sever her spine and stop her squirming, not wanting to risk another bullet.

One would have thought that would have been enough destruction for one day, yet the autopsy of the mother cow revealed that she had been pregnant with another fully developed female calf who died in her womb.

Three female black rhino’s lost in one strike, three potential contributors to restoring a fading species. A grave loss indeed that was felt by everyone that day.

This is what they are fighting against. Feel free to join the fight.

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