At 769 recorded poaching incidents in South Africa in 2018, poaching numbers are still high. However, what does this decline mean for rhinos’ future?
In February 2019 the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, released the 2018 poaching numbers. Thankfully, the numbers show a decrease of 259 (1,028 rhino were poached in 2017).
But this positive sign does not mean rhinos are now thriving. It shows at least two rhinos were killed each day in 2018. Furthermore, the cumulative impact of the poaching crisis is taking its toll, as well as the prolonged drought affecting food and water resources.
Although the recent statistics are encouraging, 2019 has continued to bring news of rhino poaching incidents in South Africa: if the 2018 trend were to continue for 2019, then 88 rhinos could have already been poached this year.
The decline in the number of poached rhinos may demonstrate that the anti-poaching work taking place is having an effect, or it may also demonstrate that with significantly fewer rhinos surviving in the wild, it is getting harder for poachers to locate their prey. More action is needed to stop the illegal trade and ensure rhinos have a positive future. This means supporting anti-poaching work, but also good overall management of rhino populations by ensuring high-quality biological management.
South African poaching explained
South Africa has by far the largest population of rhinos in the world and is an incredibly important country for rhino conservation. From 2007-2014 the country experienced an exponential rise in rhino poaching – a growth of over 9,000%. Most illegal activity occurs in Kruger National Park, a 19,485 km2 of protected habitat on South Africa’s north-eastern border with Mozambique. Kruger consistently suffered heavy poaching loses, and so in the last few years, the government and international donors have channelled ever more funding and resources into securing the Park.
Did you know
the growth in rhino poaching between 2007-2014 in South Africa
In 2018, figures showed a dip in poaching in South Africa for the fourth year in a row and was the first time that poaching numbers dipped below 1,000 since 2012. While it is encouraging to see South Africa’s poaching numbers fall, losses in Kruger National Park continue to amount to more than half of all incidents. With so much security effort focused on Kruger, how can more than 400 rhinos continue to be poached.
Furthermore, while more people were prosecuted than previous years, stopping corruption and speeding up prosection processes continues to be critically important.
The wider African context
The current poaching crisis actually began in Zimbabwe, where the difficult socio-economic and political climate facilitated rhino poaching. Once the easy pickings were taken in Zimbabwe, poaching gangs turned their attention to neighbouring South Africa, which in turn saw huge increases in poaching from 2009-2014.
Did you know
year the current poaching crisis spread from South Africa to other countries
Around 2013, the South African crisis spread to other countries in Africa. First Kenya was hit hard: its worst year for poaching was in 2013 when 59 animals were killed (more than 5% of the national population). In 2015, both Zimbabwe and Namibia suffered losses: Namibia lost 80 rhinos to poaching, up from 25 in 2014 and just two in 2012, while in Zimbabwe at least 50 rhinos were poached in 2015, more than double the previous year. For Africa as a whole, the total number of rhinos poached during 2015 was the highest it had been in two decades.
For now, the global rhino population is still increasing, but only just.
How your support helps
We can’t protect rhinos without your help. There is no magic bullet to solve the poaching crisis: it will take a mix of the best tools we’ve got.
Having well-trained and equipped rangers is an important start. So too is secure habitat and good rhino monitoring, so that we know exactly where the rhinos are, and how they’re breeding. Making sure that the communities living near rhino habitats see and feel the benefits of conservation is another critical factor in preventing people from turning to poaching or encroaching on rhino habitat. Education is important – both in countries where rhinos live, but also in Asia, where consumer demand for rhino horn is highest. Captive breeding or intensive management for the rarest species is also vital to maintain genetic diversity and prevent the species from dying out.
With your support, we can decrease these poaching numbers in the future.
If you can, please consider a donation today.
Could buy a foam mattress for a ranger on patrol in South Africa
Could help purchase a ranger uniform
Could buy a tracking tag for an African rhino