Threats to Rhinos Remain Despite Drop in South Africa’s 2018 Poaching Numbers

South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs has announced official figures showing that the number of rhinos killed in South Africa has dropped from 1,028 in 2017 to 769 in 2018.

Poaching losses in the rhino stronghold of Kruger National Park declined from 504 in 2017 to 421 in 2018, in parallel with ongoing efforts to bring the situation under control.  

During the course of the year, a total of 229 alleged poachers were arrested inside and adjacent to Kruger National Park, 40 more than in 2017. However, Kruger has also seen a rise in elephant poaching to 71 killings in 2018.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) notes that the crisis for rhinos is far from over and it is important to consider the number of live rhinos remaining as well as the number of poaching losses. Also of concern are reports from other rhino range states that levels of poaching pressure remain high across the region.

While 2018 saw some major arrests and successful convictions, the frequent granting of bail, especially to those in the crime syndicates coordinating rhino horn trafficking, is a serious concern. We need targeted efforts to address corruption and more effective international collaboration on investigations into syndicates operating in Asia to address the entire criminal supply chain.

Dr. Jo Shaw, African Rhino Lead for WWF International:

“The fact that fewer rhinos have been lost in South Africa in 2018 is good news and merits credit for the hard work and commitment of all those involved. However, the overall status of our rhino populations remains a concern and we need continued commitment to address the systemic challenges for rhinos across the region.”

Dr. Margaret Kinnaird, WWF Wildlife Practice Leader:

“Corruption remains a major part of the challenge in addressing rhino poaching and trafficking of wildlife products. To address this, we need to consider what draws people into wildlife crime. We must find a way to empower people working and living around protected areas to be invested in a future with wildlife, including helping identify those who break the law.”

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