Sometime during the early morning of 20 August 2011, two groups of rhino poachers attacked 3 of the herd of 6 resident rhinos, on the 7500 hectare Aquila Private Game Reserve, under 2 hours from Cape Town. We are led to believe that they gained access initially by vehicle through neighbouring farms on the N1 national road, then walked several kilometers at night through the Karoo vegetation.
Within the last year, Aquila’s anti poaching team has deterred two attempted rhino poaching attempts. In November 2010, a low flying helicopter made two passes across the reserve before being deterred. Since then we have spared no expense to protect our rhinos; with full time security, we purchased semi automatic weapons and equipped our staff with night vision, bullet proof vests, quad bikes and vehicles. We believe that our anti poaching team must have surprised the poachers, as the first rhino we found, with its front horn sawn off with a chain saw and they left having only had time to get half way through the second horn before retreating. They would not have left without the second horn, with a street value of R1m, if it was not for our anti poaching team. This rhino has lost a lot of blood but has managed to stumble over 150 metres and is fighting for his life. The loss of blood and position it was lying in while drugged could have caused massive muscle and organ damage which could be fatal. This rhino was the first rhino reintroduced to Aquila and to the Western Cape in over 250 years since shot out by hunters. What is even harder to bear is that this rhino fathered the first two rhino babies born in the Western Cape in over 250 years. The second rhino we came across was still alive and was one of the two fathered by him.
This young female was found with a dart in her shoulder area barely alive. The owner Searl Derman raced to the closest vet in Paarl and a clinic in Worcester to get the antidote and schedule 6 and 7 drugs that were needed to save her. These drugs can only be kept by licensed veterinary surgeons. We are pleased to say that as at this morning 9am, she has recovered well and is standing over her father to protect him… it is a heartbreaking sight. We believe that it is thanks to the active patrolling of our anti poaching teams that deterred the poachers from dehorning and killing her.
After finding the second rhino, we sent all rangers and security staff in game vehicles, on quad bikes and horseback to search for the one rhino that had not been accounted for. Knowing that the poachers had used drugs that would kill the rhino instead of bullets that could be heard by anti poaching teams, time was of the essence and no expense was spared… two helicopters and a light aircraft from Cape Town were brought in to search Aquila’s 7500 hectare conservancy. The rhino was spotted from the air by the owner Searl Derman, from his friend, Enzo Kuun’s helicopter of Cape Town Helicopters. On landing they discovered a blood bath and a rhino with his face literally hatched off with pangas and machetes proving that there were two active teams attacking the Aquila rhinos, one using a chain saw, the other using pangas and machetes to dehorn the rhino.
Aquila’s remaining 3 rhino and the rhino standing over her father are safe and fine. The security team has been briefed and 24 guards have been positioned at strategic points along the boundaries and on higher ground to keep guard. The owner Searl Derman would like to thank the local Touws River police station and in particular Capt Voight, as well as the dog units from Cape Town and the police helicopter unit for their rapid response and vigilant crime scene management. Special thanks are also extended to the dedicated vets Dr Walton and Dr Wium, Roland Bellstead, Doempies Trichardt, Douw Grobler , the Aquila staff and the thousands of concerned sms’s, calls, emails, Facebook posts and tweets received from all over the world.
Mr Derman took the opportunity to slander the South African Police Fire Arm Licensing department in Pretoria for their incompetence and procrastination. They have taken 9 months, many telephone calls, many motivational letters from police, Nature Conservation and Mr Derman himself to issue the Aquila licenses for semi automatic weapons that are needed to protect our anti poaching team and our rhinos. Mr Derman believes that as only some of the anti poaching team have access to firearms, if they had come face to face with the poachers, we would be burying our staff today. Rhino poaches are well equipped, heavily armed with automatic weapons, night and thermal vision equipment and well trained their “modus operandi” is normally to fly at night with thermal vision. They can spot a rhino through bushes and mist over 4 miles away, they GPS the location of the rhino and drop their poaching teams off several kilometers away to walk in and normally dart the baby first so that the mother and father stay to protect and don’t run away. These teams are ruthless and will stop at nothing to kill and maim for financial gain. Which in this case they got away with a street value of over 4 million rand in rhino horn.
Aquila is offering R100 000.00 reward for information leading to an arrest and prosecution of these poachers. Informants details will be kept confidential and we can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone wanting to monitor the progress of the rhino and our just launched anti poaching campaign can follow us on our Facebook (www.facebook.com/aquilasafari) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/aquilasafaris) pages. The security teams found a hooded jersey near the point of entry which could have been lost during the poacher’s hasty retreat. We will be posting picture of this jersey on our Facebook page as well as the Aquila Website (www.aquilasafari.com) and would appreciate the support of the public in identifying suspects that would have the background or training to poach rhinos amidst anti poaching teams.
Mr Derman quoted this morning that “It literally feels like the death of a family member? What happened?” Mr Derman has won several awards and has been acclaimed for his conservation, job creation and philanthropic efforts. 19 years ago he founded one of Cape Town’s largest armed response security companies protecting the residents and companies in the CBD, Zone armed response, which was later sold to ADT. He has assured us that his anti poaching campaign will employ leading military and police Special Forces, intelligence gathering personal, hi-tech surveillance and electronic forewarned system technicians and advertising and social media company or staff to create awareness and generate controversial social media platforms as a deterrent. Concerned and qualified personal wishing to donate services or equipped, time or even apply for full time positions can send CV’s to Searl@aquilsafari.com