Nearly 500 rhinos were killed as poaching increased in South Africa

Despite government attempts to combat the illegal trade in horns, poachers killed about 500 rhinos in South Africa last year, an increase of 11% over 2022, according to ministers on Tuesday.

The bulk of rhinos on the planet are found in this nation, which is also a hotspot for rhino poaching due to demand from Asia, where rhino horns are allegedly utilized for therapeutic purposes in traditional medicine.

499 of the thick-skinned herbivores were reportedly killed in 2023, primarily in state-run parks, according to the environment ministry.

The majority were poached in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province; 307 animals were lost in the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi park, Africa’s oldest reserve.

“This is the highest poaching loss within this province,” said Environment Minister Barbara Creecy.

“Multi-disciplinary teams continue to work tirelessly in an attempt to slow this relentless pressure”. 

In recent years, authorities have tightened security particularly around the Kruger National Park, a tourist magnet bordering Mozambique that has seen its rhino population fall drastically over the past 15 years.

This has resulted in lower losses there 78 rhinos were killed in 2023, 37 percent fewer than in 2022.

But it has also pushed poachers towards regional and private reserves like Hluhluwe-Imfolozi. Law enforcement agencies arrested 49 suspected poachers in KwaZulu-Natal last year, Creecy said. 

Across the country, 45 poachers and horn traffickers were convicted in court, she added. 

Among them was a former field ranger sentenced to 10 years behind bars for killing a rhino he later claimed had charged him. 

As of 2023, the national parks authority requires new employees to take a lie detector test amid concerns that some workers might be in cahoots with poachers. 

In underground marketplaces, rhino horns fetch prices per weight that are comparable to those of cocaine and gold.

However, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) stated in September of last year that rhino populations have increased throughout Africa as a result of conservation initiatives.

As of the end of 2022, there were around 23,300 specimens roaming the continent, up 5.2% from 2021, according to the IUCN, which also noted that this growth was the first “good news” for the animals in more than ten years.

Another estimate from the International Rhino Foundation puts the number of rhinos living in South Africa at about fifteen thousand.

“While these updated IUCN populations figures provide hope, these gains remain tenuous as long as the poaching crisis continues,” Jeff Cooke of the World Wildlife Fund said Tuesday.

And he described the spike in killings in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal, in particular, as “of grave concern”.

This article has been posted by a News Hour Correspondent. For queries, please contact through [email protected]
No Comments