Botswana loses seventh rhino as poachers hit high-security game sanctuary-mombo

Gazette Reporter

Botswana has lost a seventh rhino to poaching in 2018, The Gazette can exclusively reveal.

A Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) source who requested anonymity to protect their job said the latest victim – a black rhino – was slaughtered by poachers at Mombo, a privately-owned high-security rhino sanctuary inside the Moremi National Park.

The de-horned carcass was discovered on 7 November, covered in fresh bushes and tree branches. A post-mortem has since determined that the animal was killed on or around October 31. The poached black rhino is one of 20 that were relocated to Botswana from Zimbabwe in 2015.

“The (poaching) hit was a very professional job. It has been determined that the rhino died on impact with a single shot to the head. One .375 hunting rifle cartridge was recovered from the scene,” reveals the DWNP source.

“Investigations by all arms of the security forces – Botswana Defence Force (BDF), the police and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) – are ongoing. Apart from the tracks of individuals who entered and exited the crime scene the same way they came in, there is no sign of the poachers,” the source said.

Government has asked all security agencies involved in the investigation to refrain from publicising the poaching incident to avoid compromising the probe and preserve the positive global conservation image of the country.

Investigators have determined that the latest killing bears the professional hallmarks of the recent poaching of a white rhino in NG23 of the Okavango Delta and two others before. They suspect the crimes could be the work of one syndicate that works in collusion with security agency insiders to cover its tracks.

“There is concern that if the poachers can strike Mombo – which is the best protected rhino sanctuary in Botswana – they can strike anywhere when they choose to. Besides all the rhinos poached this year were big-horned and were all targeted inside well-protected sanctuaries. The question that arises is: if the poachers are outsiders, why do they seem to have such sensitive details as the precise location of the rhinos, and how do they always get the big-horns?,” said the source.

The latest incident brings the number of rhinos poached in Botswana in 2018 to seven. Since the beginning of the year, four rhinos have been killed in game sanctuaries in Ghanzi District and one each in Tuli Block and NG-23 area in the Okavango Delta.