In the first half of 2022, there were 59 fewer rhinos killed in South Africa for their horns than there were during the same period in 2019.
This follows a worrying uptick in poaching in December 2021, when 24 rhinos were slaughtered over the course of 11 days by poachers. A total of 451 rhinos were murdered in South Africa last year, compared to 594 this year.
Figures from the department of forestry, fisheries, and environment released on Monday, that 259 rhinos were poached between January and June this year, down from 318 rhinos in the first half of 2019. Between January and June, 82 rhinos from the Kruger National Park were stolen. Most rhinos were poached in KwaZulu-Natal, where 133 were slain, more than four times the 33 rhinos that were killed there during the same period the previous year.
“Recent trends in rhino poaching show a move away from the Kruger Park to private reserves and KwaZulu-Natal where the majority of rhinos have been killed this year,” said Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Minister Barbara Creecy.
Concerns regarding poaching on private reserves have been raised by half-year figures that show an increase over the previous three years. The recorded loss of rhinos on private land increased from 15% in 2019 to 9% in 2020 to 30% in 2021.
“This makes it all the more important for the national government to shift its focus to supporting provincial authorities and private reserves in the war on rhino poaching,” said Creecy. South Africa expanded its international connections to transit and end-user nations in Southeast Asia, particularly China, Malaysia, and Vietnam, in accordance with the government, to strengthen its efforts to prevent wildlife trafficking.
The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks), along with Malaysian and Qatari authorities, worked together internationally to make arrest a suspected rhino horn trafficker at Doha Airport in Qatar. At the OR Tambo International Airport, four further suspects who were allegedly trafficking 56 rhino horns were detained between January and June of this year.
These arrests, according to the department, showed “the effectiveness of country-to-country collaboration to combat wildlife trafficking at an international level.”Over the course of the same six months, 69 persons were detained across the country in connection with rhino poaching and rhino horn trafficking. 13 of them were detained in Kruger National Park. 51 cases in total 51 of which resulted in convictions have been resolved.
“The heaviest sentence handed down was 34 years imprisonment, while two Mpumalanga men were sentenced to 28 years behind bars for killing rhinos and being in possession of illegal firearms and ammunition,” the department said.
The South African Police Service, the Hawks, the Environmental Management Inspectorate, also known as the Green Scorpions, customs agents, and the National Prosecuting Authority all worked together to achieve success. Despite a decrease in rhino poaching, the agency warned that “criminal syndicates continue to operate within our borders, posing a continual threat to our rhino herds.”
Members of the public can report any suspicious activities to the department’s environmental crime hotline, 0800 205 005, or the police on 10111.