South Africa sees sharp rise in rhino poaching, with nearly 500 killed last year

by MMC
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Conservationists sounded the alarm on Tuesday as South Africa reported a sharp increase in rhino poaching, with nearly 500 animals killed last year.

Published on: Amended:

2 minutes

The country is home to the vast majority of the world’s rhinos and is a hotspot for poaching, fueled by demand from Asia, where the horns are used in traditional medicine for their supposed therapeutic effect.

The Environment Ministry said that despite government efforts to combat illegal trafficking trade, 499 thick-skinned herbivores were killed in 2023, mainly in public parks. This represents an increase of 11 percent on the 2022 figure.

The figures paint “a worrying picture,” conservation group Save the Rhino International said, calling for more resources to be urgently deployed against poaching networks.

“There is no overnight solution, but with a rhino poached every 17 hours South Africawe can’t afford to waste any more time,” said Jo Shaw, group CEO.

The lion’s share was poached in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park – Africa’s oldest reserve – losing 307 alone animalsaccording to the government.

“This is the highest loss due to poaching in this province,” said South African Environment Minister Barbara Creecy. “Multidisciplinary teams continue to work tirelessly to try to slow this relentless pressure.”

Hopes and concerns

In recent years, authorities have stepped up security, particularly around Kruger National Park, a neighboring tourist attraction. Mozambique which has seen its rhino population drop significantly, from more than 10,000 to less than 3,000 over the past 15 years.

This led to a reduction in losses: 78 rhinos were killed in 2023, 37% fewer than in 2022.

But it also pushed poachers toward regional and private reserves like Hluhluwe-Imfolozi.

Law enforcement arrested 49 suspected poachers in KwaZulu-Natal last year, Creecy said.

Across the country, 45 poachers and horn traffickers have been convicted by the courts, she added.

Among them was a former forest ranger sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing a rhino that he said had framed him.

Starting in 2023, the National Parks Authority requires new employees to take a lie detector test, amid concerns that some workers may be in cahoots with poachers.

Rhinoceros horns are highly sought after on black markets, where the price per weight rivals that of gold and cocaine.

Nonetheless, in September last year, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reported that thanks to conservation efforts, rhino numbers had increased across the world. Africa.

Nearly 23,300 specimens were roaming the continent at the end of 2022, an increase of 5.2% compared to 2021, the IUCN said, adding that the increase was the first “good news” for the continent. animals in more than a decade.

About 15,000 people live in South Africa, according to a separate estimate from the International Rhino Foundation.

“While these updated population figures from the IUCN provide hope, these gains will remain fragile as long as the poaching crisis continues,” said Jeff Cooke of Le Monde. Wildlife The Fund warned on Tuesday.

And he called the rise in murders in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal region, in particular, “very worrying.”


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