While South Africa has recorded a 24% decrease in rhino poaching compared to the pre-COVID period in 2019, there has been an increase in poaching on private properties.

In a statement on Tuesday, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, said a total of 451 rhino were poached in South Africa last year, with 327 poached within government reserves, while 124 were poached on private property.

“South Africa remains committed to safeguarding the country’s rhino populations, and will continue to work tirelessly, alongside the private sector, committed non-governmental organisations (NGOs), as well as authorities in transit and destination countries, to combat wildlife crime,” the Minister said.

Last year, 209 rhino were poached for their horns in South African National Parks (SANParks) – all in the Kruger National Park.

“This was in fact a decrease in comparison to 2020, when 247 rhino were poached within the national parks. It is important to note that none of SANParks’ smaller rhino parks experienced any rhino losses from poaching in 2021, in comparison to the two rhino that were poached in 2020,” the Minister said.

The steady decline in rhino poaching in the Kruger Park is related to an increase in the intensity of anti-poaching activities. A close working relationship between the police’s endangered species unit, the SANParks environmental crimes inspectorate has resulted in increased arrests and convictions.

In 2021, there were 189 arrests in connection with poaching activities with 77 of them within the Kruger National Park and 109 outside the park. This compares with 156 people arrested countrywide in 2020. In the 38 verdicts handed down by the courts, 37 cases resulted in the conviction of 61 accused rhino poachers/traffickers.

“One of the unintended consequences is that poaching syndicates are looking to other areas for easy prey and this has resulted in them targeting private reserves in Limpopo and Mpumalanga. Over the last year, conservation and anti-poaching efforts have intensified countrywide, as a joint effort is made by State-owned conservation areas, government and private landowners to reduce the poaching of rhino in South Africa,” Creecy said.

More targeted deployment of resources is being assisted by the roll out of a Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) developed situational awareness platform, known as CMORE, into the integrated wildlife zones.

Through this single technology platform, all role players are able to collaborate, making use of real-time insights and analytical capability, linking, for example, camera traps and ranger patrols while integrating a range of other systems.

“Information collected and communication flows through the Environmental Enforcement Fusion Centre (EEFC), which continues to support the teams at both a tactical level and strategic level. Our analysis capabilities have also improved, resulting in the increased identification of those involved in rhino poaching and trafficking improved and expanded investigations by multi-disciplinary teams,” the Minister said.

SANParks, provincial nature reserves and private rhino owners are dehorning rhino to deter poachers, while SANParks is investigating the feasibility of additional actions such as anti-poaching initiatives focused on apprehending poachers and establishing additional founder populations outside the Kruger National Park.

“Government continues to work closely with the private sector and non-governmental organisations through the Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros approach and the draft National Integrated Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking (NISCWT) to address rhino poaching,” Creecy said.

Source: South African Government News Agency

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