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KZN records highest number of Rhino poaching cases amidst growing concerns over declining population

[National Geographic]

Azra Hoosen |
28 February 2024 | 14:30 CAT
2 min read

The battle to protect South Africa’s iconic rhinoceros population has taken a grim turn, with KwaZulu-Natal emerging as the new hotspot for rhino poaching. Despite a growing percentage of rhinos falling into private hands, the onslaught on rhinos for their horns continues unabated.

The latest figures released by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment (DFFE) unveiled a grim reality, raising urgent concerns for the future of rhino conservation efforts.

According to the latest report, a total of 499 rhinos fell victim to poachers across South Africa in 2023, marking a significant rise from the previous year’s toll of 448. Of these distressing numbers, 406 rhinos were mercilessly slain on state properties, while an alarming 93 lost their lives on privately owned parks, reserves, and farms. While the overall rhino population continues to dwindle, the percentage of rhinos under private ownership is on the rise.

CEO of the Worldwide Fund for Nature, Dr Morne du Plessis, told Radio Islam, that any single Rhino that is lost to poaching is one rhino too many. “But we have to see this in context, in 2021 we saw over 540 rhinos poaches, last year it went down to about 450 and this year it went back up to 499, so broadly it is bouncing around over the last 3 years in this sort of 500 rhinos a year bracket. In comparison to other years, it is somewhat positive as for several successive years we were losing up to 1000 rhinos a year,” he said.

The Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park has now become the focal point of the poaching crisis, surpassing even the infamous Kruger National Park in the frequency of these heinous acts. The Park witnessed a harrowing loss of 307 rhinos to poachers in 2023, translating to nearly one rhino slaughtered per day.

“Most of the rhinos in the past were taken from the Kruger National Park. Last year the stats show that 78 animals were taken there, so a massive drop, which can be attributed to a number of reasons, but two things, the total number of rhinos available to be poached in KNP has decreased, and the efforts and investment in anti-poaching methods and collaborations between various entities, law enforcement authorities and conservation efforts managed to make the reward for poachers increasingly riskier. The crime syndicates have shifted their focus to KZN as it is the next best option, as the anti-poaching efforts have not been under the same kind of threat that has been in the KNP. So, they have been wreaking havoc on this area that hasn’t previously been hit this hard,” du Plessis explained.

Du Plessis elaborates on a range of measures to tackle poaching in an interview with Radio Islam, emphasizing the need for increased funding, a comprehensive arsenal of tools and resources, and active engagement from the community.

“We as WWF are ready to assist KZN and the conservation authority there. We have to get all the anti-poaching measures to the point where poachers are unable to do what they are doing now,” he asserted.

LISTEN to the full interview with Ml Sulaimaan Ravat and CEO of the Worldwide Fund for Nature, Dr Morne du Plessis, here.


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