Khama Rhino Sanctuary (KRS) - one of the most secured rhino sanctuaries in the world - is said to have fallen victim to poachers in December last year.
According to a reliable source at KRS, in December warders at the community-run sanctuary realised that one of the rhinos was appearing on their system but could find it as they tried to track it.
“We followed it since all of them have tracking devices in them and to our utter shock we found that one of the GPS microchip tracking system implanted in the rhinoceros have been removed and implanted in a secretary bird,” said the source.
The warders with the help of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), who are guarding the sanctuary, tried to trace the rhino but could not find it within and around the sanctuary and there was no track of how it was stolen.
Sources at the sanctuary reveal that part of the electric fence was cut off but the question is how the poachers managed to smuggle out the rhino without being noticed by members of the security forces.
The issue is said to have been kept as a secret by the Khama Rhino Sanctuary authorities as well as its board of directors who felt that it might tarnish the name of the sanctuary and raise questions of security.
What puzzles authorities at KRS is that security is manned by members of the BDF who patrol the sanctuary 24 hours on the ground and in towers.
In 2013 KRS completed a 4 300 square metres expansion of the sanctuary which included fencing and electrifying the area at a cost of over P1 million.
The expansion enabled the sanctuary to accommodate more animals as in the past they were able to accommodate 38 white rhinos and four black ones but now they can accommodate 70 white ones and 12 black ones.
Most of the rhinos were brought to KRS from South African especially from Kruger National Park where poaching was rampant. Last year the park lost 33 rhinos to poachers and in one of the horrific incident, tourists saw a rhino with its horn hacked struggling to walk.
Botswana has been regarded as the safest haven for rhinos as elsewhere in the region they are easily poached hence decision to relocate most of them to here.
Asked about the missing rhino, chief warder, Moremi Tjibae said that he was not aware of the incident.
Put to him that the GPS device was found planted in the secretary bird, Tjibae asked if the bird was alive or dead adding that it is very difficult to catch the bird.
“There are only few people in Botswana who can catch that bird and it is the first time for me to hear that,” said KRS chief warder.