UPDATE: ‘No arrests’ in Thula Thula rhino attack

The attack on the rhino orphanage sent shock waves throughout the international conservation community. Gugu and Impi, two White Rhino adolescents, were due to be dehorned and released into the wild shortly after the attack occurred

POLICE have confirmed that the two men arrested in connection with the attack at the Fundimvelo Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage (FTTRO) last week, are not connected to the case.

Captain Mbongeni Mdlalose said the pair, who were initially arrested in a police operation in Ermelo, were ‘not found to be associated’ with the sexual assault of a volunteer and the killing of the two adolescent White Rhino calves, Gugu and Impi.

‘We are still on the lookout for the poachers connected with this case, and they are still at large,’ he said.

On Monday, 20 February, a gang of armed men forced their way into the FTTRO which is situated at Thula Thula Private Game Reserve near Heatonville.

They overwhelmed and disarmed the guards, before tying up and beating a group of workers and international volunteers at the sanctuary.

One young woman was sexually assaulted by one of the suspects, while they also de-horned two of the calves.

Impi died during the attack, while Gugu was so terribly mutilated that she was euthanised afterwards.

The men made off and it was initially believed that two of them were arrested at a roadblock in Ermelo.

This is not the case and the entire group is still at large.


Meanwhile, FTTRO spokesperson Karen Trendler said online that the team remains ‘incredibly brave, resilient and courageous’.

‘It has been a very tough time with hourly ups and downs, hugs, laughs and tears.

‘The rigours of the investigative processes poke at tender spots.’

Trendler said the staff and remaining orphans in their care are ‘doing very well’ and that their routine was back to normal.

‘Be assured that security has been tightened and all possible measures have been implemented to protect the facility.

‘We have regrouped and have emerged from this tragic incident stronger, more focused and even more determined to not let criminal elements derail our efforts in providing care and sanctuary for orphaned rhino.’


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Laurie Smith

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