Uptick in rhino poaching as South Africa eases virus curbs

Uptick in rhino poaching as South Africa eases virus curbs

Rhino poaching in South Africa was 15 percent higher in 2021 than the preceding year as coronavirus restrictions that limited movement were eased, official figures showed on Tuesday.

James Mwenda and Sudan, the last male Northern White Rhino
James Mwenda

A total of 451 animals were killed in 2021, which is still 24 percent lower than the pre-pandemic year 2019, the country's environment department reported.

Of the total, 327 animals were slaughtered in government national parks while 124 were targeted in private game reserves.

The government has in recent years tightened security in its large and famous Kruger National Park, which was the hotspot of most killings. 

"The steady decline in rhino poaching in Kruger Park is related to an increase in the intensity of anti-poaching activities," the department said in a statement.

READ: Parliament hears poverty is major factor for poaching at iSimangaliso parks

Poachers have turned to other areas "for easy prey", resulting in their targeting private reserves in the northern Limpopo and eastern Mpumalanga provinces bordering Mozambique.

South Africa is home to nearly 80 percent of the world's rhinos. Their horns are prized in traditional medicine in Asia, and poachers have continued to mount an onslaught on the species.

Public national parks and private reserves are collaborating to protect their white and black rhinos, including sawing off their horns to discourage poachers. 

The southern white rhino, one of two subspecies of white rhino, is now considered endangered with about 20,000 individuals remaining, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). 

It is classified as near-threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 


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