Rhino poaching drops to below 1,000 for first time in five years, but elephant figure rises

Rhino poaching drops to below 1,000 for first time in five years, but elephant figure rises
Picture: World Wildlife Fund.

The number of rhino that were poached for their horns dropped to below 1,000 in 2018, according to a report released by Environmental Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane.

Poaching figures last year dropped from 1,028 in 2017, to 729 in 2018, marking the first time in five years that the number of incidents was below 1,000.

In Kruger National Park, a total of 421 rhino were poached, compared to 504 in 2017.

Mr Mokonyane said: “The decline is not only indicative of the successful implementation of the Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros Approach countrywide, but also a confirmation of the commitment and dedication of the men and women working at the coalface to save the species.

“Combating rhino poaching remains a national priority, and as such, all the relevant government departments will continue their close collaboration to ensure that this iconic species is conserved for generations to come.

"Although we are encouraged by the national poaching figures for 2018, it is critical that we continue to implement collaborative initiatives to address the scourge of rhino poaching.”

The country saw an increase in arrests being made, too. Last year, 365 alleged rhino poachers were arrested, 229 of which were arrested inside or adjacent to Kruger National Park.

A total of 36 alleged rhino horn traffickers were also arrested.

There are 318 rhino poaching-related cases ongoing in South Africa, involving 897 charges.

However, the number of elephants poached in South Africa rose to 72, with 71 of those having been poached in Kruger National Park.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) warned that poaching continues to remain a major concern and targeted efforts are needed to combat corruption.

WWF International's African Rhino Lead Dr Jo Shaw said: "The fact that fewer rhino have been lost in South Africa in 2018 is good news and merits credit for the hard work and commitment to address the systemic challenges for rhino across the region."

WWF Wildlife Practice Leader Dr Margaret Kinnaird said the key to addressing the issue is through trying to understand what drives people to commit the crimes:

Corruption remains a major part of the challenge in adressing rhino poaching and trafficking of wildlife products.

"To address this, we need to consider what draws people into wildlife crime. We must find a way to empower people working and living around protected areas to be invested in a future with wildlife, including helping identify those who break the law."

The western black rhino and northern white rhino have recently gone extinct in the wild.

The last two remaining northern white rhino in the world are kept under 24-hour guard in Kenya, both of whom are female.

Breakdown of Provinces and National Parks (2017/2018)

SANParks: 504/422

Gauteng: 4/2

Limpopo: 79/40

Mpumalanga: 49/51

North West: 96/65

Eastern Cape: 12/19

Free State: 38/16

Northern Cape: 24/12

Kwa-Zulu Natal: 222/142

Western Cape: 0/0

Total: 1028/769

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