A Wildlife Article from All-Creatures.org

Rhino Poaching Increases In South Africa After Deadly Year

From Paul Healey, SpeciesUnite.com
March 2024

Latest government figures show nearly 500 rhinos were poached across the country in 2023, despite efforts to protect the animals.


Rhino poaching increased in South Africa during 2023, despite efforts to protect the animals.

Newly-released government figures show that in total 499 rhinos were poached last year across the country.

The high number of cases is driven by a demand for rhino horn, which is typically grounded down into a powder and used in traditional medicine in parts of Asia.

In the highly lucrative rhino horn trade, poachers are said to use a tranquiliser gun to sedate the rhino, before hacking off the animal’s horn. When the rhino wakes up, they slowly bleed to death.

South Africa’s Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Ms Barbara Creecy, said in a statement that many multi-disciplinary teams have “worked tirelessly” to protect the animals amid “relentless pressure” from poachers.

And such efforts have seen the number of poaching cases decrease in certain areas.

This includes at the Kruger National Park (KNP), which recorded a 37 percent decrease from 2022. The progress has been attributed to a variety of interventions, including increased law enforcement and tougher penalties, as well as an extensive and ongoing dehorning programme. Improved technology has also helped, with automated number plate recognition and radar detection systems which remotely track any entry into the KNP.

However, the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province meanwhile faced intense pressure, and is said to have dealt with the brunt of poaching cases in 2023. The province is home to the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, which accounted for 307 of the total poached rhinos.

Counter efforts in the KZN province ultimately led to 49 arrests and the seizure of 13 firearms. The country’s environment minister commended law enforcement in the area, with many prosecutions leading to convictions.

In KZN for example, five people were accused of poaching after they were found in a motor vehicle with hunting equipment. DNA found on the equipment was linked to the crime scene of a dead rhino, and the group were later sentenced to an effective imprisonment term of 10 years.

Other criminal prosecutions include those focussed on transporting the illegal animal parts, including one person in Gauteng who was sentenced to 5 years of prison time after being found in possession of a bag containing two rhino horns.

Conservation and animal welfare groups are among those alarmed about the newly released figures. The NGO Born Free noted that much time, effort and resource has already been spent to protect rhinos, but efforts must now be ramped up even further.

“Together with recent reports of increased poaching in Botswana and Namibia, these figures clearly show that much more needs to be done to tackle the organized criminal outfits that coordinate the illegal horn trade, and to reduce demand for rhino horn in market countries,” said Born Free’s Head of Policy Dr Mark Jones.

“It is also surely time to end the cruel trophy hunting of rhinos in southern Africa – with ongoing declines in crucial rhino populations, all individual animals must be considered precious and of vital importance if we are to secure a viable future for these majestic animals.” 

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