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Wed Jun 29 18:21:45 CAT 2016

Fewer rhino poached

Katharine Child and Shaun Smillie | 22 January, 2016 00:23
The World Wildlife Fund has said that in Namibia 80 rhino were poached last year, up from 25 the year before and from only four in 2013. File photo
Image by: ESA ALEXANDER

For the first time since 2007 rhino poaching figures have declined, but conservationists warn that this has been offset by increases in South Africa's neighbours' figure.

Last year 1175 rhino were poached nationally - 40 fewer than in 2014.

The World Wildlife Fund has said that in Namibia 80 rhino were poached last year, up from 25 the year before and from only four in 2013.

In Zimbabwe 50 of the animals were killed in 2015 - more than double than in the previous year.

"After seven years of increases, a decline in the rate of rhino poaching in South Africa is very encouraging but the overall rate is unacceptably high," said Dr Morné du Plessis, CEO of WWF SA.

International wildlife activist group Traffic said across Africa at least 1305 rhino were killed last year.

"For Africa as a whole, this is the worst year in decades for rhino poaching," said Tom Milliken, Traffic's rhino expert.

"The poaching centre has spread to neighbouring Namibia and Zimbabwe, but is nowhere near that being extinguished in South Africa."

The latest statistics were released as South African rhino owners were given the green light to trade horn locally on Wednesday.

The Department of Environmental Affairs on Wednesday lost its right to appeal against a High Court judgment that overturned the ban on domestic trade in rhino horn.

Du Plessis said the lifting of the ban on domestic trading in rhino horn would make it harder to stop the illicit exporting of horn.

"It will make it harder for overstretched law enforcement agencies to tackle rhino-horn trafficking."

Pelham Jones, of the Private Rhino Owners' Association, said his association had been offeredR80 000 to R500 000 for a kilogram of rhino horn.

He said the money would be used to help owners protect their rhino.

A permit is required to buy and sell horn.

The Department of Environmental Affairs can audit an owner's stock of horn and charge the owner if horn is missing.

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