Poaching: The Statistics

Rhinos were once abundant throughout Africa and Asia with an approximated worldwide population of 500 000 in the early twentieth century. However, despite intensive conservation efforts, poaching of this iconic species is dramatically increasing, pushing the remaining rhinos closer and closer towards extinction. The Western black rhino was declared extinct by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) in 2011, with the primary cause identified as poaching. In fact, all five remaining rhinos species are listed on the IUCN Redlist of threatened species, with three out of five species classified as critically endangered.

South Africa is home to 83% of Africa’s rhinos and 73% of all wild rhinos worldwide and is an incredibly important country for rhino conservation. However rhino poaching has reached a crisis point, and if the killing continues at this rate, we could see rhino deaths overtaking births in 2016-2018, meaning rhinos could go extinct in the very near future. Figures compiled by the South African Department of Environmental affairs show the dramatic escalation in poaching over recent years - see graph below.


Graph 1, data published by South African Department of Environmental Affairs (2014)

During 2012, in South Africa alone a staggering 668 Rhinos were killed by poachers, that’s almost 2 a day. Worryingly the current figures for 2013 suggest that more than 1000 rhinos could be killed by the end of the year.

This poaching is by no means isolated to South Africa, rhino poaching is surging across the entire African continent, and is a constant threat to the smaller rhino populations in Asia. Other rhino states do not regularly publish poaching statistics, however updates are available in news reports and press releases. For example, in early August 2013, Kenya reported that it had lost 34 rhinos to poaching since the start of the year.

This poaching is predominantly fuelled by the illegal trade in rhino horn; globalisation and economic growth has made it easier to establish illegal trading routes. The current poaching crisis is attributed to the growing demand for rhino horn in Asian countries, mainly China and Vietnam, where horn is believed to have medicinal properties. The high price fetched for the horn has attracted the involvement of ruthless criminal syndicates who use high-tech equipment to track down and kill the rhinos.To learn more about the threats to rhino please click here.

Graph 2, data published by South African Department of Environmental affairs (2013)

However, it is not all doom and gloom; penalties for rhino poaching are becoming increasingly severe and frequent. Figures released by the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, show an increasing number of rhino related arrests over the past few years (shown in graph 2). Law enforcement plays a crucial role in deterring poachers, however there is no single answer to combat the current poaching crisis. A multi-faceted approach is required including ongoing anti-poaching and monitoring patrols, community conservation and environmental education schemes, captive breeding, translocations and demand reduction projects in Asia. If you want to contribute to these efforts and be a part of saving the worlds remaining rhino please click here to find out more about supporting Save the Rhino International.

For further details regarding South African Rhino poaching statistics please click on this link to be directed South African Department of Environmental affairs website. https://www.environment.gov.za/mediarelease/update_on_rhino_poaching