The poaching onslaught on Africa’s wildlife has reached a new level with news that poachers have slaughtered three rhino bulls at a sanctuary in North West, although the animals have already been dehorned.

A fourth bull survived being shot at the sanctuary that is owned by the world’s biggest rhino farmers, John and Albina Hume.

It was the first time in the sanctuary’s five-year history that animals have been targeted by poachers. Previously, the Humes – passionate advocates of dehorning rhinos and allowing a legal trade in the horns as the only way to stop poaching – lost nine rhinos at their game farm in Mpumalanga. “Yesterday we woke up to a nightmare… four of our rhino bulls were shot by poachers.

Three of them were… butchered for their stumps of horns; one has survived with his injuries,” Albina Hume told Tim Condon’s Rhino War News network. “Heartbreak. The same question keeps playing in my mind – how many more rhinos have to die for their horns before we realise that there is a demand for rhino horn but not for rhino life?” According to latest poaching figures released by the national environment department last week, at least 350 rhinos have been killed in South Africa this year – 242 in the Kruger National Park. Also last week, ranger Andrew Desmet was seriously wounded when he was shot in the stomach during an altercation with poachers in the park.

Yesterday, park spokesman William Mabasa said Desmet was in a stable condition in the ICU of a Mbombela (Nelspruit) hospital. In another development linked to what appears to be a major ivory poaching escalation, mainly elsewhere in Africa but including South Africa, three Chinese ivory smugglers – one a licensed dealer – have just been sentenced to lengthy jail terms of between seven and 15 years. The ivory involved consisted of 2 154 whole tusks or segments weighing a total of 7.7 tons that represented an estimated 819 elephants, according to wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic.

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