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Rhino Poaching Surges In South Africa Despite Efforts To Combat Illegal Trade

Environment minister Barbara Creecy said that the number of rhinos hunted last year was 499, 51 more from the year before.

Rhino poaching in South Africa are rising. Photo: Pinterest

South Africa's fight against rhino poaching has faced setbacks, with the number of rhinos killed rising in 2023, Environment Minister Barbara Creecy revealed.

Last year, the country recorded the deaths of 499 rhinos, marking a troubling increase of 51 from the previous year. South Africa, home to the majority of the world's rhinos, houses approximately 2,000 critically endangered black rhinos and around 13,000 near-threatened white rhinos.

While poaching had significantly declined since 2014, recent years have seen a resurgence, driven by the demand for rhino horns in Asian countries like China and Vietnam, where they are utilized in traditional medicines.

The Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park in KwaZulu-Natal province emerged as a major hotspot for poaching, with the majority of animals killed in 2023 found within its borders. However, the Kruger National Park, previously a poaching epicenter, reported a notable reduction of more than a third in rhino deaths last year.

Minister Creecy attributed the success in Kruger to intensified anti-poaching efforts, prompting criminal groups to relocate to other areas. This displacement has led to increased poaching activity in parks like Hluhluwe-iMfolozi, where rhinos are more visible and vulnerable.

Efforts to combat poaching include allocating $2.1 million to enhance fencing in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park and deploying additional patrollers and a new surveillance helicopter. Additionally, extensive de-horning programs have been implemented to deter poachers, along with anti-corruption measures to prevent collusion between park officials and criminal syndicates.

Despite these initiatives, environmental activists like Jamie Joseph of Saving the Wild remain critical, emphasizing the need for improved intelligence gathering to dismantle poaching networks.

While the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation has made strides in convicting poachers and traffickers, the ongoing threat to rhinos underscores the urgency for more comprehensive and proactive measures to safeguard these iconic creatures.