Rhino poaching rises in South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal a point of concern

Posted on 27 February 2024 By Savanna Douglas

A total of 499 rhinos were poached in South Africa in 2023, with the province of KwaZulu-Natal accounting for over 60% of rhino poaching incidents in the last year.

In a media briefing addressing the 2023 national rhino poaching statistics in St Lucia on Tuesday, the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, reported that a total of 499 rhinos were poached in South Africa in 2023 – rising from the total number of 448 recorded in the country in 2022.

As per reports, 406 rhinos were killed on state properties and 93 on privately owned parks, reserves and/or farms last year.

Creecy noted that while various preventative safety measures have seen a decrease in rhino poaching in South Africa’s national parks – such as The Kruger National Park (KNP), which saw a 37% decrease in poaching from 2022 – the brunt of poaching cases have shifted to Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park in KwaZulu-Natal, recording the highest loss within the province and accounting for 306 of the 499 recorded cases nationally.

The minister stated that South African law enforcement agencies arrested a total of 49 suspected poachers in KwaZulu-Natal in 2023, and a total of 45 poachers and horn traffickers in total were convicted in court last year.

One of the convicted individuals was identified as a former field ranger, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing a rhino that he later claimed had stormed him.

To address the underlined concern that poachers may be working with employees at National Parks, as of 2023, new employees are required to take lie detector tests.

In better news, rhino numbers are growing across the African continent.

According to a report published by The South African, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reported that thanks to ongoing conservation efforts, rhino numbers had grown across Africa with a total of nearly 23 300 rhinos roaming the continent at the end of 2022, a 5.2% hike from 2021. As per the International Rhino Foundation, approximately 15 000 of these rhinos are based in South Africa.

However, the ongoing rise in poaching in the country, with KwaZulu-Natal being a hotspot, is a serious concern.

At the media briefing on Tuesday, Jeff Cooke from the World Wildlife Fund said:

“While these updated IUCN populations figures provide hope, these gains remain tenuous as long as the poaching crisis continues,” adding that the spike in rhino poaching in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal is “of grave concern.”


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