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Rhino poaching declined again in 2019, says environment minister

03 February 2020 - 15:09 By ERNEST MABUZA
Rhino poaching figures in SA dropped for the fifth consecutive year in 2019.
Rhino poaching figures in SA dropped for the fifth consecutive year in 2019.
Image: 123RF/Jacoba Susanna Maria Swanepoel

Rhino poaching in South Africa continues to decline.

The department of environment, forestry and fisheries said on Monday that 594 rhino were poached nationally in 2019 - down from 769 rhino in in 2018 and 1,028 in 2017.

Minister Barbara Creecy said the decline could be attributed to a combination of measures.

These included improved capability to react to poaching incidents, the deployment of new technology, improved information collection and sharing among law enforcement authorities, better regional and national cooperation, and the more meaningful involvement of the private sector, non-governmental organisations and donors.

Creecy also paid tribute to rangers who battled poaching in conservation areas daily.

“A decline in poaching for five consecutive years is a reflection of the diligent work of the men and women who put their lives on the line daily to combat rhino poaching, often coming into direct contact with ruthless poachers,” she said.

The department said 2,014 incursions and poacher activities were recorded in the Kruger National Park during 2019. A total of 327 rhino were lost to poaching in that period.

When it came to elephant poaching - which had been on the rise - the department said 31 elephant were poached in South Africa in 2019 - 30 of them in the Kruger Park and one in Mapungubwe National Park.

“This is a decrease in the number of elephant poached in 2018, when 71 were killed for their tusks,” said the department.

From January 1 to December 31 2019, 178 alleged poachers were arrested within the Kruger Park. 

Nationally, 332 arrests were made in relation to both rhino poaching and rhino horn trafficking and 57 major investigations were undertaken across the country.

The arrests resulted in a number of convictions: 145 people were convicted in the country’s courts and are serving sentences ranging from two years to more than 15 years. Various other high-profile cases are presently before the courts

The department said among the biggest successes last year was the arrest of three people during a rhino horn trafficking operation in Klerksdorp and Hartbeesfontein in November, when a total of 100 rhino horns and four tiger carcasses were seized.