The killing of an iconic rhino family at a well-known wildlife reserve on South Africa's eastern coast is being described as yet another devastating blow in the country's war against rampant poaching.

The female rhino, known as "Ms Long Horn" to staff and local visitors at the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, was discovered dead by rangers on patrol early on Thursday last week, the carcasses of her two young calves nearby.  

“With her extremely long horn this rhino cow and her two calves were a favourite of park staff, tour guides and local visitors,” iSimangaliso CEO Andrew Zaloumi told local media outlet The Zululand Observer. “It is emotionally wrenching to have witnessed the murder and butchering of such a magnificent rhino who fought back and survived the second worst drought in the last century, only to be killed in this manner alongside her calves,” he added.

According to reports, a post mortem confirmed that the rhinos were killed with a high-calibre rifle before their horns were removed. This is the first reported poaching incident in this region of the park since rhinos were introduced there about ten years ago.

An investigation has been launched by local authorities to track down the poachers.

“A tragic moment in our park that has devastated not only the staff of ‎iSimangaliso and ‎EzemveloKZNWildlife, but also thousands of visitors who knew and loved one of our most iconic white rhino and her calves,” said an update on the park's Facebook page yesterday.

According to unofficial statistics, over a thousand rhinos have fallen victim to poaching in the country this year. 

Late last month, a South African court made a controversial decision to lift a ban on domestic trade in rhino horn, reigniting fiery debate among those who claim legal trade could help stem South Africa's poaching crisis and those who fiercely oppose it. The South African government plans to appeal that ruling.


Header image: Colin, Flickr