In 2018, 769 rhinos were killed for their horn in South Africa. During 2019, rhino poaching declined, with 594 rhinos poached nationally during the year - a whopping 327 of these rhinos were killed in the Kruger National Park. The second biggest poaching ground was KwaZulu-Natal, with 133 rhinos poached there in 2019.
But even with this decline in poaching, we are far off from success as this endangered animal is still fast-disappearing from our ecosystem.
This week, a statement by the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries reported on the decline of rhino poaching in South Africa as additional steps are continuously being taken by government to ensure this heinous crime is effectively policed and prosecuted.
The Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms Barbara Creecy says, “Because wildlife trafficking constitutes a highly sophisticated form of serious transnational organised crime that threatens national security, the aim is to establish an integrated strategic framework for an intelligence-led, well-resourced, multidisciplinary and consolidated law enforcement approach to focus and direct law enforcement’s ability supported by the whole of government and society."
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The decline noted from 2018 to 2019 can be attributed to a combination of measures implemented in line with government’s strategy, including improved capabilities to react to poaching incidents linked to better situational awareness and deployment of technology; improved information collection and sharing amongst law enforcement authorities; better regional and national cooperation and more meaningful involvement of the private sector, NGOs and donors.
“A decline in poaching for five consecutive years is a reflection of the diligent work of the men and women who put their lives on the line daily to combat rhino poaching, often coming into direct contact with ruthless poachers,” said the Minister.
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In response to these numbers, Andrew Campbell, CEO of Game Rangers’ Association of Africa via Ranger Protect says “We must applaud the rangers and those dedicated people who support them for the work they do at the forefront of the rhino poaching onslaught. There is no doubt that their blood, sweat and tears have helped contribute to this decline in rhino carcasses year on year in South Africa.
"In my line of work, I’ve been lucky enough to meet many of these extraordinary people who have dedicated the last decade to ensure we still have rhinos left. Their work continues to inspire me. They face enormous odds working against organised criminal syndicates in a harrowing environment that, unfortunately, includes being undermined by corrupt individuals.
"Sadly, we continue to lose rhino at unsustainable levels. South Africa has reported almost 8 500 rhino carcasses since 2008. If we account for undetected carcasses, loss in breeding potential and calves that die in uterus, the real impact on rhino populations has been far greater than this.
"Whilst it grabs the headlines, as rangers we understand that success should not only be measured by a drop in rhino carcasses year on year. There are many other factors to consider including incursion rates, follow up successes, arrests, successful prosecutions and of course ultimately the most important statistic – are rhino populations starting to grow at a sustainable rate?"
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He adds that until this is achieved the battle to save the rhino is far from over. In fact, in many ways it has only begun.
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