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Rhino News :Seven rhinos 'starve' to death in E-Cape
Seven rhinos 'starve' to death in E-Cape
|| Mail & Guardian on-line
12 September 2002 09:20
The Eastern Cape Tourism Board suffered a R3-million loss when seven of
its white rhinoceros at the Tsolwana Game Reserve died recently.
Some professional game hunters were quick to accuse the board of
incompetence and said the death of the rhinos was due to starvation.
But Shamwari Game Reserve veterinarian Dr Johan Joubert rejected the
allegations and said the death of the rhinos could only be ascribed to the
adverse weather conditions -- snow, frost and rain -- which had battered the
Joubert, who had been asked by the board to perform post mortems on
two of the carcasses, said there had been ample food for the rhinos.
However, the weather conditions resulted in the short, white grass on
which white rhinos fed becoming indigestible.
This affected the animals' digestive canal. "They also suffered from
pneumonia but that had been a secondary problem," said Joubert.
He said this condition also resulted in a shortage of glucose in the animals'
Joubert said the problems which led to the deaths happened over a short
period of time.
The two dead animals were transported from Tarkastad to Shamwari.
"The game reserve management cannot be held responsible. This was an
unfortunate chain of events. The stomachs and digestive canals were full of
grass but the animals had been unable to digest it. Rhinos are very
sensitive animals," he said.
According to Joubert, the reserve had also sent a dead gemsbok to him.
"But this animal died as a result of an abscessed heart," he said.
He said he often consults with the board's game reserves. Shamwari owner
Adrian Gardener is also a board member. Joubert said there was a danger
that, as a result of the continuing cold and adverse weather conditions,
more animals could be in danger again.
He said he had made certain recommendations to the board.
"We have advised them to lay out as much teff grass and Lucerne and
sprinkle it with molasses, which gives extra energy.
"The problem is, however, that we do not know whether the rhinos would
The board's Wandile Mzazi said Joubert's recommendations had already
been implemented. Mzazi said he had been shocked to learn of the
Others in the game hunting industry, who all asked to remain anonymous,
still blame the board. Despite the severe winter they said the loss of seven
rhinoceros was inexcusable.
"At this time of the year and on a reserve as small as Tsolwana, the lack
of adequate nutritional bulk grazing should have led management to
supplement the limited grazing with lucerne. This is readily available for
purchase from Tarkastad," said one.
In January the rhino population at Tsolwana was some 21 animals.
One hunter said this was about double what a reserve that size could carry
given its limited food bank by way of grass.
He said the grazing was limited to a narrow belt along the northern front of
the reserve and in the mountains along a narrow eastern boundary section
that the rhino seldom, if ever, ventured into.
"Quite simply by the end of winter, a rhino population of that size and in
view of the competition with other species would have run out of food.
"There is no other reason for the debacle," he said, adding that warning
signs should have been observed. - Sapa