As of today there has been no official update on rhino poaching in South Africa but a reputable non-government organisation (NGO) said the death toll at the end of June stood at 595.
This means South Africa is losing rhino at a rate of around 100 a month. If this trend continues the country will have lost in the region of 1,200 rhino by year end, less than last year’s all-time high of 1,214.
The Stoprhinopoaching website , run by Elise Daffue, reports 3,873 rhino have been poached in South Africa over the past seven years. Making this kill figure more disturbing is that there are an estimated 18,000 white and 2,040 black rhino in South Africa – 74% of the world’s remaining rhino population.
In April Environment Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said the first four month of the year saw 393 rhino killed by poachers. This was 62 more than for the corresponding period last year.
In February she indicated her department would not be releasing monthly rhino kill statistics. Molewa did not give any indication of whether these figures would be released on a bi-monthly or quarterly basis. At the time of publishing no response had been received to e-mailed questions sent to the department earlier this week.
According to her the forces ranged against rhino poachers include SANParks rangers, the military and the police have all “upped their technological game” to be better able to arrest suspects before rhino were killed.
The SA National Defence Force (SANDF), elements of which are deployed in the Kruger National Park as part of the border protection tasking Operation Corona, assist rangers with anti- and counter-poaching activities but this is a secondary task only.
SANParks, the CSIR and the military are piloting and evaluating UAVs as tools to improve rhino protection under a range of varying operational conditions in the world famous game reserve. The evaluation phase is expected to be completed by year-end.
The local defence industry, in the form of Denel and the Paramount Group, is also assisting in the fight against rhino poaching with donations of equipment and manpower. This has to date seen a Seeker UAV and a Seabird Seeker light surveillance aircraft deployed in Kruger.