DURBAN - An increase in rhino poaching in South Africa for the first time since 2014 has sparked international outcry.
This after Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) Minister Barbara Creecy said a total of 451 rhinos were poached in South Africa last year.
She said 327 rhinos were poached within government reserves and 124 on private property.
Creecy said while there was a 24% decrease in rhino poaching compared to the pre-Covid period in 2019, there has been an increase in poaching on private property.
A total of 394 rhinos were poached in 2020 compared to the 451 poached in 2021.
The International Rhino Foundation (IRF), based in America, reacted to the increase in poaching on private properties.
IRF executive director Nina Fascione said: “This is a stark reminder of the constant threats rhinos face in their fight for survival.”
“Unfortunately, these losses confirm our concerns that with Covid travel restrictions loosening, poaching incursions are increasing and spreading throughout the country, including onto private game reserves.”
IRF said South Africa’s poaching figures showed an alarming increase in poaching at the beginning of December. DFFE reported that 24 rhino carcasses were found in just two weeks at various nature reserves and parks around the country.
In 2021, 209 rhinos were poached for their horns in South African National Parks (SANParks) – all in Kruger National Park (KNP). This was a decrease in comparison to 2020, when 247 rhinos were poached within the national parks.
The report noted that a close working relationship between the police endangered species unit and the SANParks environmental crimes inspectorate has resulted in increased arrests and convictions and has led to a decrease in poaching in Kruger.
The IRF said although the 2021 decrease in poaching in (KNP) is welcome news, an earlier report from SANParks detailed steep declines in the rhino population there, confirming conservationists’ worst fears. Since 2011, Kruger, which is home to the largest population of rhinos in the world, experienced a 75% decline. There are just 2 607 white rhinos and 202 black rhinos left in the park, down from more than 11 000 in 2011.
“It is important that the government becomes even more vigilant in protecting rhinos from poachers.”
“Continued economic pressure resulting from the ongoing loss in international tourism revenue will continue to wreak havoc on private reserves, provincial parks and South African National Parks alike, placing strains on rhino protection and monitoring activities,” Fascione said.
The IRF recommended the following actions for South Africa:
- Maintain, and increase where needed, support for protection and monitoring activities in all SANparks.
- Combat corruption and organised crime by building cases and expedite prosecution of high-level crime bosses. Enforce stiff sentences for wildlife trafficking as a deterrent.
- Proactively partner with game reserves to implement measures to stop the spread of the poaching crisis.
“South Africa has lost more than 9 000 rhinos to poaching since the start of this crisis in 2007,” said Fascione.
“The South African government must act decisively and with urgency at all levels to protect rhinos throughout the country.”