KwaZulu-Natal – Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife chief Bandile Mkhize is calling in independent wildlife crime investigators to probe the recent slaughter of nine rhino in the province, including the possible involvement of Ezemvelo staff in a criminal poaching syndicate.Big guns to probe rhino slaughter

“I cannot rule out anything and if we suspect the involvement of staff we will deal with them accordingly. We will flush them out. We will not tolerate any rotten apples in Ezemvelo,” he told The Mercury on Tuesday.

This followed the weekend discovery that seven rhino had been killed in the flagship Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, one rhino in the far northern Ndumo Game Reserve and another inside the Isimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage Site.

The seven were found in the Ngqumeni area, the southernmost section of the old Hluhluwe reserve.

Though one of the rhinos appeared to have been killed about a month ago, the other six all appeared to have been killed very recently and there was evidence that three were killed on Sunday.

“This really came as a shock to us. The fact that they were all killed in the same section of the park makes one wonder what is going on and I have been very busy today seeing how we will sort things out,” Mkhize said.

Late on Tuesday afternoon, Mkhize said he hoped to finalise the appointment of independent investigators before the end of this week.

They would be drawn from “law enforcement agencies and intelligence-gathering experts within the province”.

All the carcasses found in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park were spotted from the air by Ezemvelo staff flying a light aircraft.

Mkhize said he was also determined to increase the number of helicopters, or helicopter flying time, over KZN parks.

At least 388 rhino have been slaughtered nationwide this year, according to official government statistics released last week on the eve of World Rhino Day on Saturday.

However, these statistics are already out of date following the latest discoveries in KZN and other parts of the country. In KZN alone, 46 rhino have been shot this year, while at least 241 were poached in the Kruger National Park. – The Mercury