South Africa’s largest rhino farmer and pro-trade protagonist, John Hume, experienced a major setback in the past two months on his farm Elandslaagte because of an outbreak of blackquarter among his 1000 rhinos, which killed 35 of them.
Terry Bengis, Hume's spokesman, said all the animals on the farm near Klerksdorp Elandslaagte now needs to be vaccinated against the bacteria (Clostridium novyi).
Dumisa Seshabela, spokesman for the North West Department of Economic Development, Environment and Conservation, said they have sent a warning about the outbreak in Elandslaagte to other ranchers in the area.
According to Bengis, there are between 20 and 25 variants of this bacterium. Scientists, including veterinarians from Onderstepoort, managed to isolate the bacteria and are now trying to develop a vaccine against the disease .
"We consider this as pioneering work," said Bengis.
The carcasses of all the dead rhinos were burned to prevent further spread of the disease.
Ecologists said they believe the bacteria developed themselves after the heavy rains recently in the Northwest in the grass where the animals are grazing. They said the unnatural conditions under which animals are kept and the large number of rhinos (1000) has made the outbreak possible. They believe the carrying capacity of the farm is exceeded.
According to Bengis the disease started with mucus running from the animals' noses. Four days later the animals became unsteady on their legs and died soon afterwards.
Hume will now have his remaining rhinos anesthetized and vaccinated - as soon as the vaccine is available.