National Geographic : 2016 Oct
72 national geographic • october 2016 with their horns cut off. Six years later Hofmeyr is still haunted by the scene. “The thing that was most traumatic for me was seeing that pit with the dead rhinos in it,” he tells me. “It’s very likely he’s going to get off the hook. That’s an indict- ment of how sick our systems are.” Hofmeyr is sick about something more per- sonal. He recognized rhinos on Groenewald’s property as animals he’d helped capture in Kruger National Park. “[Groenewald] offered the best prices and there was no [criminal] conviction, so according to our tender laws we couldn’t not sell to him.” Selling wildlife to the private sector is one way the park has paid for special conservation projects, he says, and even though some rhinos are sold to safari outfitters to be hunted, they also have a chance to breed, increasing numbers overall. Indeed, breeding for big game hunting is widely credited with helping white rhinos come back from near extinction at the turn of the 20th century. “It takes a long time to recover, takes a long time to trust people again,” Hofmeyr says. “ You think, Am I a part of this? I caught that animal, and I put it in that box.” Hofmeyr focuses on the bigger picture—animals he’s helped relocate to other destinations. “I would say 75 percent of them are still alive, and breeding. That, to me, ultimately is what makes it easier to accept these things.” Groenewald, who bought over 30 rhinos from Kruger, says the park charged him by the length of each adult bull’s horn. “They wanted people to hunt them,” he tells me. Of the rhinos that wound up dead at Prachtig, Groenewald sold 39 carcasses to a local butcher. He is clear about who is buying South Afri- ca’s rhino horns. With two index fingers he pulls back the corners of his eyes and says, “The people called me all the time. Because they want some horn. Some horn. Some horn. They don’t get it from me? They’ll get it from somebody else.” “Chinese guys or Vietnamese guys?” Brent asks. “Both,” Groenewald says. “If their eyes are like this, they in it.” Operation Crash In June 2011 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service received an email from Col. Johan Jooste of South Africa’s Hawks requesting help inter- viewing several Americans who had hunted rhinos with Groenewald in South Africa. David Hubbard, agent in charge of the FWS’s San An- tonio, Texas, office, was given the assignment. Hubbard knew Groenewald. Hubbard had Lulah’s mother was killed by poachers in Kruger National Park. She now lives at Care for Wild Africa, a sanctuary in Mpumalanga Province specializing in rhinos. Staff member Dorota Ladosz lives with her full-time and comforts her after surgery to repair wounds inflicted by hyenas before her rescue.