When rhinos started getting poached in 2011 in our area, Protrack gathered together around the scene with the SAPS (South African Police Service) and discussed the devastation, at this time everyone was new to what was happening so no one gathered evidence or knew that we should treat the poaching as a real crime scene, no one knew that this poaching incident was linked with big crime syndicates and was the beginning of the rhino poaching war. At the scenes no one had the correct equipment so the crime scene's became very unpleasant and extremely gruesome. A huge chain of evidence wasn't followed, nothing was documented properly, projectiles were never found and there was no proper investigation carried out or crime scene management. We had nothing that could be presented with confidence in court and absolutely no thought was given to whether an animal had a calf that needed to be looked for and moved to a place of safety.
After lots of training and unfortunately many rhinos poached Protrack Rhino Task Team have become the first response to rhino poaching incidents in our area, we now support anyone with rhino poaching and complete the autopsies in conjunction with SAPS.
The correct response and steps to take for a crime scene.
Firstly always remember a poaching incident is a crime scene so treat it like any other crime scene.
DISCOVERING A CARCASS
The person who discovers the carcass needs keep people 100 meters from the carcass and Insure no one touches anything in the area or walks with in the area as their spoor may lead to them being suspects then report to the warden/manager immediately and confirm the following if possible -
- If the horn/s are intact or have been taken
- Male or female
- Age of carcass
- Calf spoor
Wait for the manager or warden to arrive and stay at the scene for the SAPS as they may want to speak to you.
The warden or manager needs to report to SAPS immediately and Protrack Rhino Task Team and again insure no one touches the crime scene while waiting for SAPS.
Once the SAPS arrive at the crime scene, they will open a case, obtain the case number. In our area we report to The Rhino Task of SAPS, who then contact us to do the autopsy if we haven’t already been notified.
A time will be arranged to meet up at the crime scene, firstly The Rhino Task of SAPS will approach the carcass to inspect and take photos before the autopsy begins. Once they have got the information they need give us the go ahead to begin the autopsy.
The Rhino Task Team at the crime scene
The Rhino Task Team carry out a full autopsy to obtain evidence to create a secure file fit for court.
What Evidence do we need?
Projectiles tell us which firearm was used to kill the rhino, this can help us link scenes together and if a suspect has that specific firearm in his possession we will have a stronger case against him.
The SAPS take Rhino DNA. When a rhino horn is found its gets sent off for testing, the DNA then goes on to a huge data base of other poached rhinos when horns are found they can track where the horn came from.
Spoor/tracks, lifting Spoor from a crime scene helps us identify shoes that the poachers were wearing, this can lead to house searches.
Any Items left by the poachers.
Why is an Autopsy so important?
Autopsies are important because it helps us build a professional case file fit for court, if anyone is arrested in connection with a poaching incident our files are ready to be used for court.
Crime Scene Photos