Lifestyle & Belief

South Africa: 'poacher' steals fiberglass rhino horn


A beaded wire sculpture of a rhinoceros, created by Zimbabwean artistsworking on a street corner in Johannesburg, South Africa.


Erin Conway-Smith

JOHANNESBURG — A thief, possibly drunk, has dehorned a rhino at a game reserve in South Africa's Eastern Cape.

But this is no ordinary rhino poaching story: the horn was actually hacked off a fiberglass replica of a rhinoceros.

During a burglary at Lombardini Game Reserve early Monday, a thief pulled down a fiberglass rhino sculpture from its place above the lodge's fireplace, dragged it outside and chopped off the horn, Afrikaans-language daily Die Burger reported.

“The intruder was probably looking for money and when he couldn’t find it, he looked for refreshments in the bar," before the rhino caught his eye, Susan Lottering, co-owner of the reserve, told the newspaper.

“He must have heard somewhere that it was worth something," she said.

South Africa, which is home to most of the world's 21,000 rhinos, is facing a massive poaching crisis, with 448 of the endangered animals killed last year for their horns.

GlobalPost special report: Last rhino standing

The fiberglass rhino was a cast made of the reserve's first-ever rhino, named Barendina, Die Burger reported.

Last October, Lombardini reserve dehorned its 15 live white rhinos in a bid to prevent them from being targeted by poachers.

Lottering said her feelings about the "poaching" incident have ranged from surprise to anger to laughter.

She and the other staff now burst into laughter whenever someone mentions "fiberglass rhino horn."

When the police came to investigate the robbery, “they could also not believe their eyes when they saw Barendina lying without her horns,” Lottering told Die Burger.

The sculpture of Barendina is beyond repair, but the reserve's owners say that a new fiberglass rhino, with horns intact, will eventually take its place.

More from GlobalPost: Kruger park rangers, guides arrested over rhino poaching