Kirby - a Rhino lost to Poaching

My collection, 'Inside Africa', is all about raising awareness of wildlife conservation in Africa. It extends from Habitat Loss and Human / Wildlife conflict, to anti-poaching efforts and the Illegal Wildlife Trade.

I aim to bring an optimistic approach, however sometimes the reality is not so positive. I received an unsettling email last week from the conservationist and rhino owner in Namibia I had interviewed only a few weeks prior. This email was writing about the horrible poaching incident of one of his twelve rhino, named Kirby.

This email really struck me hard, as it re-establishes the WHY to my Inside Africa collection. It is one thing to research the illegal wildlife trade, but to hear it first hand reminds me that this is a REAL and SERIOUS matter.


Dear Sterling ,

I can’t get the stench of acrid death out of my senses . The whole of last night was a troubled sleep , at best , with the shocking images of yesterday going through my mind constantly . And the smell , locked in my mind just won’t go away .

Yes , yesterday was a day we have been dreading and hoping would never occur here at our beautiful Gamsberg . But it’s happened . Poachers have destroyed one of Namibia’s most iconic and valued animals - one of our white rhinos , a young bull named Kirby after a good friend . Kirby was born here at Gamsberg almost seven years ago on the 20 th October 2015 . He met his end from a hail of half a dozen bullets from a silenced poachers gun last Tuesday night , the 18 th October 2022 , two days before his seventh birthday . To say we are all devastated is an understatement. Especially Pauline who was the initial sponsor and idea behind “ Habitat for Rhino “ .

Some of the photos I share below are horrific . But I make no apologies. We need to be aware of the reality of the poaching menace . There are evil people out and about , wreaking havoc in all the rhino rangelands of Africa , bent on the extermination of rhino for quick reward . And , yes I am angry : Angry that inhuman persons can spoil the tranquil life our rhinos have had here up until now.

Myself and anti poaching personnel yesterday. A tragic end for Kirby .

His lovely horn hacked off . Bullet holes in his shoulder , neck and above his spine . Obviously the poachers first shot hit his neck , knocking him down . As he tried to get up , they shot him another 4 times trying to hit his spine . What an awful and terribly painful end . I can imagine him screaming in pain . Sorry , but all of this brings tears to my eyes . They used a small calibre silenced rifle ( we informed by the police of this modus operandi ) , which is why none of us or the anti poaching team heard the shots . The bullets we have recovered from Kirby's carcass have all fragmented , so have no forensic value . Kirby . This is one of the last videos of him alive . On Wednesday, our antipoaching team reported that they hadn’t seen Kirby , but had tracked up and found all the other rhinos . We didn’t worry , as Kirby often wandered off on his own in this vast landscape . But , a priority on Thursday was to find him . At 10:30 am I got a report from an anti poaching Askari , that Kirby had been found , dead . With his horns hacked off . Pauline and I immediately went to the scene of the crime , which was about 7 miles away from our house , first having alerted Dan Mousley my step son , who was down on the Gaub river and additional antipoaching personal , the Police and Wildlife Department. We were carful not to disturb the crime scene . The Government officials all arrived from Windhoek in the early afternoon . A crime scene cordon was established , with a 40 yard radius around and away from the carcass . A thorough search on foot then took place to look for tracks or empty cartridge cases , or any other possible items of interest that could be incriminating. Nothing was found . These poachers are obviously seasoned professionals. They left no evidence . Including using small calibre soft bullets to kill the rhino , that fragmented and having no forensic value . All empty cartridge cases they had picked up also . Additionally there were no human track track impressions left by shoes or boots , as the poachers only walked in the long grass . They crossed any roads or sand rivers in rocky areas so no tracks would be visible . The way the horns of the dead rhino were hacked off indicated professional poachers , as the nasal bones were not cut or sawn . The horns were simply removed by a sharp knife used with surgical precision , levering the horns and skin off the skull . All roads and sand rivers were searched for tracks . Nothing . They obviously walked in through the bush on the previous moonlit night and overnighted in the bush , biding their time . The antipoaching patrols were out and about at that very night , but this is a big territory to patrol in the day , let alone at night . The poachers would then have arranged by cell phone for a car to collect them from the main road . The Namibian Police Force set up road blocks , on all the arterial roads , but it was too late . The poachers with their ill gotten gains were long gone . However , we are on full alert as we believe that on the next full moon or sooner , they will return . This has been their pattern of operation in other areas . We estimated from the state of the carcass that Kirby was killed on Tuesday evening or night . There was a slight moon shining that night . Enough light for a “ poachers moon “ The Police and Wildlife Department are due back to continue their investigation that includes the unpleasant job searching the rest of the now decomposing body for any bullets that may not have fragmented . All of this has highlighted our efforts to conserve rhino . We are not doing enough . The threat is an escalating one , not just with us , but throughout rhino habitat . I indicated in my last report a month or so ago , that if this poaching threat continues unabated, within a decade rhino populations will be facing extinction. We need to act . We need to act now . We need to increase our antipoaching personnel , and also to place cameras in vulnerable locations . We need to have a manned entrance to Gamsberg . All of this costs money , which is in short supply , with ourselves recovering from 18 months of no safari income over the Covid epidemic. We can and will do our bit to look after and conserve rhino to the best of our ability , but we can’t do it alone . Conservation is hugely expensive . We need financial help urgently . Yet again , I must go cap in hand.

Please can you help by partnering us in the crucial task of conserving rhino .Any donation to Habitat for Rhino will be most appreciated and valued , and will help us with the cost of additional antipoaching personnel , new cameras , manned road entrance , fodder in drought times , and other associated costs . You can be sure all funds received will be 100 % dedicated to conserving the rhinos . A commitment on a regular yearly basis , that would go a long way to the future well being of these noble animals .

Together we can do our bit to steward the rhinos at Gamsberg. Yes , it’s a small project , but as I said before , nevertheless of huge importance for the future of rhino . We can have ‘ boots on the ground ‘ , but in order to do this we need funding . Thank you for reading this and for your support . With warmest wishes from us all at Gamsberg , Robin .

P.S. If you are inclined to help , funds can be sent to Conservation Force in the USA . They have 501 C 3 tax status which can help with tax deductions . Thank you . Any donation sent to Conservation Force , should please be earmarked for “ Habitat for Rhino “ Namibia . John Jackson of Conservation Force : Chrissie Jackson of Conservation Force : 3240 S 1-10 Service Road West , # 200 , Metairie , LA 70001 , USA Tel : +1 5048371233 Otherwise for non Americans , funds can be sent direct by contacting Jana Mousley OR Daniel Mousley OR Thank you.