Pregnant Rhino Falls Victim To Poachers

13 Oct 2022

The poachers' target: rhino horn, for which tens of thousands of US dollars are paid in Asia.
Photo (for illustration purposes only): Sven-Eric Stender


The fight against poaching also suffers repeated setbacks in Namibia. Only a week ago, Environment Minister Pohamba Shifeta announced the current number of discovered poached rhinos: 55. That is already eleven more than in the entire year 2021.

Four days later, another rhino was added. A white rhino. Actually, two. Because the poachers killed a pregnant cow. The baby died about five months before it was supposed to see the light of day. For the owners, the Rust family, it is the third hard blow in just 18 months.

Their open letter to the travel industry yesterday, also reached Since, it provides a good background to the problem, the editorial team decided to publish it. has added subheadings.


Newsletter by Martin Rust on the latest rhino poaching incident:

Dear partners in tourism

Climate change, diminishing of habitats, the extinction of plant and animal species. There is no doubt about it: humans are merciless towards their environment. Also in Namibia.

My family has been working with rhinos since 2006. Many guests often visit our farms just for this reason - an unforgettable rhino experience. By now, 120 jobs are attached to our farms and to these animals.

In 2017, we had our first serious experience with rhino poaching. Poachers entered our farm and shot a cow. With a good deal of luck and courageous intervention, the animal could be saved.

Since then, poaching became a constant concern. Numerous attacks followed. It took a lot of effort, sleepless nights and high financial expenditure to fend them off. 17 arrests and the seizure of numerous rifles - including automatic assault rifles - were only partial successes. New attempts always followed.

COVID: No Tourists, No finances for Protection

During 2020, the Corona crisis threatened our (and several other) nature reserves and almost drove us to the brink of bankruptcy. No tourists, no hospitality business. No hospitality business, no livelihood for people and no income for wildlife conservation.

After a long recession and a severe drought, we had hoped for a good travel season, which we (and the whole country) desperately needed for the recovery of our economy. Absolutely no financial support from the government could be expected. Businesses were left to fend for themselves – survival of the fittest. To keep the businesses going, we had to deplete our reserves and take out new mortgages. As is the nature of their business, private banks focus on their quarterly returns and have their shareholder dividends at heart. No long-term plan could be achieved here either. Still, the effects of this will be felt by us for a long time to come.

Due to increasing unemployment, the problem of poaching has become more and more acute. And again, humans are living at the expense of nature. This time with consequences that are difficult (impossible?) to repair.

In 2021 we experienced the epitome of horror. Still corona-battered, we had to fill financial holes and at the same time keep up the protection of the animals. A balancing act that was almost impossible. We lost four rhinos at Ghaub. Some of them shot senselessly and only succumbed to their injuries hours later. Another rhino followed two months later at Waterberg.

Up and away with the horns in 20 minutes

But this was not to give us a breather, in the past few months we continued to fend off further attacks on our animals. On 09.10.2022 (cruel irony of fate - my birthday) another pregnant rhino cow was killed at Waterberg and its horns stolen. It is frightening to see the professionalism with which the poachers proceeded. The shots were well placed with a suitable large caliber. Within 20 minutes of hearing the shots, we were already on the scene. The horns had been chopped off and the poachers had slipped through our fingers. These criminals seem to have comprehensive training and experience with large animal poaching. Left behind is a dead cow and her unborn calf – also a female. A huge loss for any breeding success we were hoping for.

Armed guards do not provide sufficient protection

We are extremely disappointed and I firmly believe that our staff feel the same way. It is obvious that rhinos cannot be protected in this way. Protection is becoming more and more expensive and it is increasingly affecting our health and work capacity. The daily worries about the animals and also the gripping and constant readiness are taking their toll.

Security gates, cameras and armed guards are no longer sufficient guarantees for a safe haven. We need to re-evaluate our situation and once again adapt our operations and procedures. To eliminate the possibilities of an inside job, our team has to endure interviews, interrogations and even lie detector test. Needless to say, that this is a tremendously stressful procedure for the whole staff and does not necessarily promote the team spirit.

"It's your own fault if you have rhinos".

I have often been asked why we keep publicizing these incidents? Are we not afraid that this could be interpreted as a failure to protect animals? Aren't we afraid of negative repercussions of such news for our lodge establishments? There were even a few voices saying: "It's your own fault if you have rhinos. "What do humans even need rhinos for?" Fortunately, only a few. However, this is one reason why many affected farmers remain silent. After the painful loss of the animals, it takes courage to endure public opinion. Though we feel, there is no need to hide this cruel truth. We sacrifice too much, only to then remain silent. It is not a failure but a tragedy that threatens Rhinos worldwide. And yet, this does feel like a lost battle that we thus far only managed to prolong.

Those affected encourage to continue the struggle

Often enough one reads in newspapers: "55 rhinos poached this year". The trauma this causes for the animals as well as for all the people who devote themselves to these animals is sadly too often overlooked. It is therefore important for us to get the News out. We will certainly keep the fight going and hope that our colleagues and all affected farmers will be encouraged to do the same.

What I haven't mentioned yet and have saved for a more pleasant conclusion: Our reports emotionally move a lot of people and we often receive deep sympathy and can look back on a solid base of like-minded people. To all of you: THANK YOU!

We are now consulting with our partners and will refine our concept on rhino protection. This may impact the experience for guest staying with us. We thank you for your understanding in this regard. We will communicate any changes as soon as possible – please bear with us. 

Kind regards, Martin Rust


Holidaymakers in Namibia help protect rhinos

Namibia stepped up its fight against poaching just a few months ago - see background report. Investigators arrested a number of suspected poachers shortly afterwards who are believed to be responsible for the death and theft of the horn of several rhinos in Etosha National Park.

Every tourist to Namibia helps to protect the endangered pachyderms. Not only through their stays, safari excursions and park entrance fees, which generate income that can be used to finance conservation measures. But also in the form of employment. Statistically, eight to ten holidaymakers create a job.

Good examples of this are the lodges of the Gondwana Collection at Etosha National Park and in the Palmwag Conservancy in the Kunene region. Gondwana Collection Namibia is also committed to rhino conservation across the board. For example, on the most recent World Rhino Day three weeks ago with a campaign for the Rhino Momma Project.

Sven-Eric Stender

Sorry, we can’t seem to find any matches for your search. Have a look at our popular searches below.