South Africa Cuts Rhino Poaching By Half
As much of a mess 2020 has been so far, at least one good thing has happened: South Africa has cut its rhino poaching by half.
While many rhinos have still sadly lost their lives to poaching, there has been a 53% decrease in poaching-related deaths in the first six months of this year. In the first six months of 2019, 316 rhinos were killed by poachers compared to 166 in 2020.
While officials largely credit lockdown for the decrease in killings, they are concerned numbers will rise again as it eases.
Rhinos are mainly killed for their horns, as there’s a large demand for them in Asia, particularly in China and Vietnam. The horns are sold in a powdered form and are sold as supposed cures for cancer and other illnesses.
While the pandemic has evidently played a part in the fall in numbers, poaching statistics showed that there has been a decline for five years in a row. These figures are very encouraging as South Africa holds 80% of the world’s rhino population.
South Africa’s Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries reported the positive news in February, and since then numbers have continued to decline, France 24 reports.
Barbara Creecy, Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, spoke about what the country will do to tackle poaching.
She said in a statement:
Because wildlife trafficking constitutes a highly sophisticated form of serious transnational organised crime that threatens national security, the aim is to establish an integrated strategic framework for an intelligence-led, well-resourced, multidisciplinary and consolidated law enforcement approach to focus and direct law enforcement’s ability supported by the whole of government and society.
[…] A decline in poaching for five consecutive years is a reflection of the diligent work of the men and women who put their lives on the line daily to combat rhino poaching, often coming into direct contact with ruthless poachers.
Creecy also credited the hard work of the country’s rangers in helping getting poaching numbers down.
Last year, despite there being 2,014 poaching incursions and activities in the famed Kruger National Park, only 16% of the attacks were ‘successful’ with 367 rhinos being killed. The park is typically one of the hardest hit in the country in regards to poachers.
Another way South Africa has been protecting its rhinos is by training a special anti-poaching K9 unit. As of May, the fast response unit had saved 45 rhinos from being killed.
‘K9 Master’ Johan van Straaten said using tracking dogs has been a ‘game changer’, as the dogs can track poachers much faster than humans can.
Hopefully everyone’s hard work will continue to bring numbers down.
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CreditsFrance 24 and 1 other
Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries