Three young men appeared in the Barkly West Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday for allegedly poaching an extremely rare black oryx, believed to be the only one of its kind in South Africa and valued at around R8 million, on a game farm outside Kimberley last year.
Tshkolo William Dikoko, 26, Thabang Riet, 18, and a 17-year-old minor appeared on charges relating to the contravention of the Conservation Act, as well as trespassing, after allegedly hunting the black oryx (a protected species) without a permit and also using prohibited hunting methods (dogs and stones) during the incident that occurred at the Mattanu Private Game Reserve on November 16 last year.
The trio were arrested after an intelligence operation led police to them and some of the animal’s meat was found in their possession. However, some of the meat had apparently already been eaten.
All three accused pleaded guilty to trespassing but not guilty to the charges of hunting a protected species without a permit and hunting with prohibited methods.
The owner of Mattanu Private Game Reserve, Dr Johan Kriek, testified for the State that the animal was the only black oryx in South Africa that he knew of, after a second black oryx was killed by lightning.
He also warned that all camps in the reserve contained buffalo, which pose a danger to humans.
The three accused took to the witness stand on Tuesday and testified in their own defence, after the State had earlier closed its case.
The three testified that they had been hunting for bush pigs with some dogs, belonging to the minor accused, when they came across a hole under the reserve’s fence. They said they entered the area, together with the dogs.
They went on to say that they then heard the dogs barking in the distance and on closer inspection found the injured black oryx surrounded by the dogs, which were biting and attacking the animal.
The accused then apparently pelted the buck with stones until it died. They said that they did so as the animal was already dying.
This was in contrast to earlier evidence, where the accused’s legal representative had indicated that the animal was already dead when they arrived.
Dikoko also stated that they then went home and divided the meat amongst themselves, which they then ate.
Only the head and horns were discovered on the farm, after Kriek launched a search when it was found that the animal was not in its camp.
The case was postponed until later this week, when closing arguments are expected to be heard before judgment is delivered by Magistrate Veliswa Sityata.
According to Kriek Wildlife’s webpage, the black gemsbok/oryx colour variation is very rare.
“Mattanu has recently launched a breeding project to breed more of this beautiful colour variation. The black gemsbok has the same markings as normal gemsbok, but the colour is much darker and can vary from charcoal to completely black,” the site says.
According to the Kriek Wildlife Group journal, the black oryx was discovered by Johann Kriek Jnr while doing a game count in the Northern Cape in 2014.
“We darted a young bull and his mother while also darting other females from the herd. We proceeded to breed with the black gemsbok. The bull was too young at the time so we used a saddle back gemsbok to breed with. We were very happy to witness the first black calf being born within the first year of the project. The black bull will be placed with the black heifer as soon as they are both sexually mature.”