Rhino poaching decreases in South Africa

Image of a ranger feeding rhino in Kenya.

Today, we can all heave a – tiny – sigh of relief. The number of rhino poached in South Africa has declined, for the third year in a row.

1,028 rhino were poached in 2017, a slight decline (26) from the 1,054 animals killed in 2016.

This morning, at 10:00 local time, Minister Edna Molewa from the South African Department of Environmental Affairs released the 2017 poaching numbers from across South Africa. Although it is encouraging that poaching levels are not escalating, losses are still extremely high, the outlook for rhino population growth severely impacted, and poachers are proving adept at changing their target sites and trafficking strategies.

“For several years now, Kruger National Park has been the epicentre of the poaching crisis. Now, with increased security in and around the Park, poaching syndicates are targeting other areas of the country. KwaZulu-Natal has seen a massive rise in poaching during the last two years: increase the risk of being caught in one area and the poachers move to another. We’re not going to solve the poaching problem until we’ve patched all the vulnerabilities,” said Cathy Dean, CEO of Save the Rhino International.

Minister Molewa also commented on the number of poachers caught during 2017. Some 502 alleged rhino poachers and 16 alleged traffickers were arrested nationally, a decrease from 2016 when a total of 680 poachers and traffickers were arrested.

While the Minister highlighted examples of international cooperation in arrests and presenting evidence to courts, and highlighted six cases that have been concluded or are awaiting sentencing, there was no indication of how many of the 2016 and 2017 arrests have actually been followed through to a successful conviction. Also notable by its absence was any discussion of some of the high-profile cases involving alleged kingpins, such as Hugo Ras, Dawie Groenewald, ‘Big Joe’ Nyalunga and Dumisani Gwala, whose trials have been repeatedly delayed.

CEO Cathy Dean notes: “Cherry-picking a few successes – while morale-boosting – is meaningless without the wider context of the investigations’ record. Where are the Key Performance Indicators so that we can properly assess progress on South Africa’s Integrated Strategic Management approach to combat rhino poaching? And why such slow progress in the big cases? The syndicates’ kingpins are not going to be deterred until the risk-reward equation moves heavily in favour of the law enforcement agencies.”

Minister Molewa rightly congratulates the real heroes, the rangers and law enforcement agencies without whose efforts the poaching crisis would be even worse. And she thanks national and international organisations and NGOs for their support. There have indeed been some significant advances in cooperation between agencies and sites, in the use of technology and intelligence analysis.

Our real fear is that, after more than 10 years of this crisis, the wider world will write off rhino poaching as a problem too big, too difficult and too expensive to solve. For those with longer memories, we have been through this before, in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. We turned the situation round then, and we firmly believe we can do so again now.

Cathy concludes, “I really feel for the rangers, the majority of whom will have signed up because they love the bush and the great outdoors, who probably never imagined they’d be fighting not only for rhinos’ lives but their own lives. We must keep faith with our rangers.”

For the full text of Minster Molewa’s statement: https://www.environment.gov.za/mediarelease/molewa_highlightsprogressonimplementationofintegratedstrategicmanagementofrhinoceros


2 thoughts on “Rhino poaching decreases in South Africa

  1. Thank you for trying to find a solution. We are failing Rhinos. Most charities are run by people who become defensive when their efforts are questioned (not yours). They are not open to solutions from others, probably due to pride. They are more interested in saving that, than a species. Nor do they want any ideas from others. I have communicated my best ideas to some, without their appreciation. I wish that all Rhino advocates could work together. My ideas are worth more than what I can give financially. If you give that value, then I am able to help in a way.

    I believe Rhino saving efforts cost more $s now than ever; more than charities can provide thru the small contributions they can collect. If we are going to save Rhinos from extinction, billionaires and celebrities must step in to provide billions of $s to help them now. That is simply the price of saving any species. Now is the time to kick our efforts into high gear! Here are a few more ideas:

    Anyone chosen to guard or be near Rhinos must be investigated completely and then monitored at all times. Giving them better income is not the complete solution to trust, because almost everyone has a price, which may be easily satisfied by the poaching leaders. They know this and it is a serious problem, because it has happened again and again.

    Rhinos must be relocated to fenced fortresses, were cameras, in the air, can monitor everyone 24/7, or where everyone can monitor eachother, leaving no areas in the dark. Even the most trusted people can change at any time. The current homes of remaining Rhinos have been infiltrated too often and will never be 100% safe. Supervisors, and other key people at the top are especially of concern, needing close supervision at all times. They can, and have, turned to poaching for extra money. Poachers seek out these people, who know all the secrets, that give them access to vulnerable Rhinos. Poacher leaders have virtually unlimited resources to get at their prey.

    $ can buy anything, and there are not enough Rhinos left to survive our mistakes. We just can never assume their safety by leaving anything to chance.

    We need more media coverage to reach everyones’ attention. There are illiterate people, people too busy to get informed, people who are not thinking of the world, more and more people loosing internet access due to finances; all of whom need to be reached somehow. Many of them may care, but are still in the dark. Some of them may be able to volunteer, give input, or donate for Rhinos. Our news is almost completely devoid of any wildlife problems. I just recently learned about the plight of Rhinos, eventhough animals and the environment in our world have been suffering for a long time from not just poaching. That’s probably because I only have local TV.

    The Sumatran Rhino (so cute) just said good-bye forever. The palm oil industry in Malasia leveled and burned most of their habitat, which exposed survivors to even more poachers. Their numbers quickly fell to 100. Just a few years after that, they were down to 3 related individuals, making them unbreedable,
    unsavable and extinct. So when populations are just in the hundreds, we just can’t act fast enough.

    You may be well aware of some things I’ve just written. Please feel free to share this with other orgs. trying to save animals from poaching too.

    Thanks for all you do. Please contact me about any problems that could use some more input. I’m not always right and am not a know it all. I just think that the more answers we seek from others, the faster we can solve problems. So, thanks for helping animals!

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