South Africa’s rhino population decreased by 529 in the first six months of this year, 13 less than the same period last year, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said during a briefing in Cape Town today (Monday 24 July).
The country’s iconic Kruger National park remains the preferred target of poachers, most coming from Mozambique. Parks rangers have to date found 243 rhino carcasses, a decrease of 34% on the 354 found in the same period last year.
She told the briefing: “Declining numbers do not mean we can proclaim victory (over poachers). The downward trend is being established and it is cause for cautious optimism”.
“While there has been a decrease in the number of rhinos killed for their horn in Mpumalanga, the number of rhinos poached has unfortunately increased in some other provinces.”
KwaZulu-Natal is worst hit and the province’s flagship game reserve Hluhluwe-Imfolozi earlier this month lost six rhinos to poachers’ high-powered hunting rifles in a single night. As of 8 July the province had lost 139 rhinos this year and indications are the provincial total could reach 260 by year-end.
Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) chief whip Narend Singh is on record as saying 2017 looks set to be “another bleak year” for South Africa’s rhinos with the country on track to lose more than a thousand of the Big Five species to poachers for “the fifth straight year”.
“With our country still losing three rhino a day we dare not cut budgets and think we are winning. Within a few short years there will be no rhino left unless government, across the board, acts,” he said during a parliamentary debate.
On other species targeted by poachers in Kruger, Molewa said 30 elephants had been killed.
“Interventions to counter rhino poaching are being implemented as a counter to elephant poaching, but it is clear more resources are required to address this challenge,” she said.