A ZIMBABWEAN white rhino, popular with tourists, has been destroyed after being shot and injured by poachers.
The mother of a 14-month-old calf was found with bullet holes in her legs and shoulder and its horn sawn off.
The beast named Ntombi, which means girl in the Zimbabwean language, was found in the Matopo National Park in the west of the country.
It is reported that a Kalashnikov AK47 assault rifle had been used in the attack and the horns were later recovered.
Ntombi would have “endured unimaginable pain caused by broken legs and open wounds,” according to vets on the scene.
Spokeswoman for Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA), Ms Washaya-Moyo said: “The animal was very immobile and was unable to walk to access food and water.
“Because of the seriousness of the wounds the authority had to put the animal to sleep.”
Ntombi’s calf is currently being cared for by wardens and was not harmed in the attack. The authority is investigating the attack.
Dr Lisa Marabini, local vet, working for the Aware trust who treated Ntombi, said: “It appears she was shot while lying down. Her two front legs, right shoulder and right hock were hit.
“If only one leg was broken and she could support her weight on the other 3 legs we could have tried to fix the fracture, but without the use of her other limbs this was not an option.
“It was personally devastating to see this young mother rhino, who had been in perfect health the week before, crippled by poachers bullets.
“She is survived by her calf who is likely to have recently weaned. We think she will join another rhino group and should be able to survive, but Parks will be keeping a close eye on her.”
Rhinos are is constant decline in Africa, a record 1,305 rhinos were illegally killed in the continent last year alone. Just over 800 rhinos are left in the wild in Zimbabwe, Ms Washaya-Moyo said.
Dr Marabini continued: “Zimbabwe’s National Parks are some of the last bastions for rhinos and elephants in Africa.”