HARARE (Reuters) - Game wardens in Zimbabwe have killed a black rhino popular with tourists to end its suffering after suspected poachers shot and severely wounded the animal, the wildlife parks' agency said on Monday.
Ntombi, whose name is a native Ndebele word for girl, was an eight-year-old female with a 13-month-old calf living in Matopo National Park in western Zimbabwe.
The rhino had four bullet wounds in its legs and shoulder after being shot last week, said Caroline Washaya-Moyo, a spokeswoman for Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA). Its horns had been sawn off but were later recovered.
Veterinarians from animal conservation group Aware Trust carried out an X-ray that showed Ntombi had "endured unimaginable pain caused by broken legs and open wounds", 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," she said.
The ZPWMA is investigating the incident. Wardens are taking care of Ntombi's calf, which was not harmed by the poachers.
Buying and selling rhino horn internationally was banned in 1977. In Zimbabwe, killing a rhino carries a mandatory nine-year sentence upon conviction.
But rhino horn is prized in Asia for use in traditional remedies and surging demand has led to more poaching. A record 1,305 rhinos were illegally killed in Africa last year.
Zimbabwe's black and white rhino population is estimated at just over 800, said Washaya-Moyo. The World Wildlife Fund said in a January report that 50 rhinos had been killed in Zimbabwe in 2015, double the figure for the previous year.
"It's been a gut-wrenching weekend ... one of the most difficult things we've had to do," Aware Trust said on its official Facebook page which also showed pictures of Ntombi's injuries.
(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by James Macharia and Gareth Jones)