The internationally renowned Kruger National Park remains a target for poachers, losing 209 rhino last year – more than half the total killed nationally.
South Africa, according to Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Minister Barbara Creecy, recorded a 24% decrease in rhino poached last year. South Africa as a whole lost 451 rhino to poachers.
“Three hundred and twenty-seven were killed in government reserves and 124 were poached on private property,” a statement quotes her as saying.
“South Africa remains committed to safeguarding its rhino population and will continue to work tirelessly, alongside the private sector, committed non-governmental organisations (NGOs), as well as authorities in transit and destination countries, to combat wildlife crime.”
On rhino losses in Kruger, Creecy said this was a decrease on the 247 killed in the iconic game reserve in 2020 and related to “an increase in the intensity of anti-poaching activities.
“It is also important to note none of SANParks smaller rhino parks had any rhino losses due to poaching last year, compared to two poached in 2020.”
2021 saw 189 arrests in connection with poaching activities with 77 in Kruger. This compares with 156 people arrested nationally in 2020. In 38 verdicts handed down by the courts, 37 saw conviction of 61 accused rhino poachers/traffickers.
“An unintended consequence is poaching syndicates looking to other areas for easy prey and this resulted in private reserves in Limpopo and Mpumalanga being targeted. Over the last year, conservation and anti-poaching efforts intensified countrywide, as a joint effort is made by State-owned conservation areas, government and private landowners to reduce rhino poaching in South Africa,” Creecy said.
Better deployment of resources is assisted by the roll out of a Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) developed situational awareness platform, known as CMORE, into integrated wildlife zones.
Through this single technology platform, all role players collaborate, making use of real-time insights and analytical capability, linking, for example, camera traps and ranger patrols while integrating other systems.
“Information collected and communication flows through the Environmental Enforcement Fusion Centre (EEFC), which supports teams at tactical and strategic levels. Our analysis capabilities have improved, resulting in increased identification of those involved in rhino poaching and trafficking and expanded investigations by multi-disciplinary teams,” she said.
SANParks, provincial nature reserves and private rhino owners are dehorning rhino to deter poachers. Additionally, the national conservation agency is investigating the feasibility of additional actions including anti-poaching initiatives focused on establishing additional founder populations outside Kruger.
“Government continues to work closely with the private sector and non-governmental organisations through the integrated strategic management of rhino approach and the draft National Integrated Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking (NISCWT) in addressing poaching,” Creecy said.