Relentless poaching sees more rhinos killed

KwaZulu-Natal bore the brunt of rhino poaching in 2023. File photo.
KwaZulu-Natal bore the brunt of rhino poaching in 2023. File photo.

Environmental minister Barbara Creecy says government is renewing its strategies to combat the “relentless pressure” wrought by poachers on the rhino population.

This as 51 more rhinos were slaughtered for their horns in 2023 compared with the year before.

Of the 499 rhinos poached last year, 406 were killed on state properties and 93 at privately owned parks, reserves and farms.

“The pressure has again been felt in KwaZulu-Natal with Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park facing the brunt of poaching cases, losing 307 of the total national poaching loss,” the minister said.

“This is the highest poaching loss within this province.

“While KwaZulu-Natal recorded 49 arrests and 13 firearms seized, multidisciplinary teams continue to work tirelessly in an attempt to slow the relentless pressure,” Creecy said.

Kruger National Park recorded a 37% decrease from 2022 with a total of 78 rhinos poached in 2023. No rhinos were poached in any other national parks.

Creecy commended the Hawks for regional and transnational engagements to enhance government’s integrated approach to combat wildlife trafficking.

“Responsible partnerships between the public and private sectors and the financial and transporting sectors remain critical in combating international wildlife trafficking,” she said.

The approach is not exclusive to South Africa and is followed within the region and transnationally, working with the transit and end-user countries in Southeast Asia, especially China, Singapore, Qatar, Malaysia and Vietnam.

In the past year, verdicts were handed down in 36 rhino poaching cases, of which 35 resulted in guilty verdicts and one not guilty verdict. The cases resulted in the conviction of 45 accused rhino poachers and traffickers with a conviction rate of 97%.

Creecy said the directorate of public prosecutions' environmental working group meets on a biannual basis to share best practice in the investigation and prosecution of environmental crime, to address challenges , to foster closer collaboration between the provincial conservation authorities dealing with wildlife trafficking cases and to help identify repeat offenders moving around the country.

“Real time information pertaining to arrests is shared, which significantly enhances collaboration between prosecutors and the law enforcement agencies.”

A national environmental cases audit has been conducted to establish the number of cases being dealt with by the National Prosecuting Authority. A consolidated list of investigating instructions pertaining to rhino and abalone cases has been developed to ensure comprehensive investigations are requested.

The department's biodiversity management plans are being revised to provide a strategic approach and detailed action plan to conserving rhino in South Africa and for engaging with range states to the north, Creecy said.

“It consolidates previous work at policy and planning level on rhino management into a single integrated tool to usher in a whole of society approach in the interest of the rhinos and the people of South Africa.”

The revised draft plan will be published in the government gazette for public participation soon.


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