South Africa records reduction in rhino rustling


In Klerksdorp, the largest city of South Africa’s North West Province, rhinos have found a home in what has been described as the biggest private sanctuary in the continent – the Buffalo Dream Ranch.


South Africa generally accounts for nearly half of the entire black rhino population in Africa and has the world’s largest population of white rhinos. But, like the apple tree planted by the roadside, these rhinos attract so much attention; positive attention from the tourism industry, as well as negative attention from smugglers and disrupters of wildlife.


Rhinos once roamed Africa, today, however, they subsist only in pockets of secured spaces in southern and eastern Africa, this is chiefly because of the illicit demand for their horns for supposed medicinal use and jewellery making in some East Asian countries.


This illegitimate hunt for rhinos and their horns seems to have ruined their population for decades in South Africa, neighbouring Botswana, and in Namibia. The pilfering regularly involves global criminal consortia and local poachers who traffic the horns the world over. The number of rhinos stolen for their horns in South Africa lessened somewhat in 2022 but the country’s environment ministry believes that more must be done to save them in provincial parks.


The Ministry says that rhino poaching declined in South Africa’s national parks due to increased vigilance, dehorning programmes, and collaboration between establishments on conservation, pointing out that there has been a 40% reduction in rhino plundering in South Africa even though KwaZulu-Natal province still needs attention. Last year, 124 rhinos were stolen at the South African National Parks, SANParks, compared to 209 in 2021.  This signifies a 40% cut compared with those killed for their horns in 2021.


Because rhinos abound in large proportions, there’s a shared boundary with Mozambique, and being surrounded by poor, heavily populated local communities, the Kruger National Park has been a target for rustlers since the present poaching crisis started in 2008.


Lately however, since there are fewer rhinos, ongoing anti-poaching efforts, and wide-scale dehorning, plundering groups have shifted to other states, private and provincial parks, especially in the KwaZulu-Natal province where the majority of rhinos have been killed.


According to the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy “the steady decline in rhino poaching in national parks is related to the relentless war that has been waged by our fearsome anti-poaching machinery as well as a comprehensive dehorning programme. This year’s outcome shows that collaboration between conservation authorities, the South African Police Services, revenue authorities and international agencies works. We believe that if provincial authorities in KwaZulu-Natal follow our model, they will be able to significantly curb rhino poaching in their provincial parks before it is too late.”


In 2022, several effective arrests and trials were recorded. “During 2022, the NPA in collaboration with the DFFE established a Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Environmental Working Group. The purpose of this group is to foster closer collaboration between the provinces working on wildlife trafficking cases and helps identify repeat offenders moving around the country,” Creecy added.


SANParks’ continued efforts to safeguard rhino species, have prompted it to identify suitable safe habitats across South Africa for the reintroduction and maintenance of new rhino colonies.


The Black Rhino, White Rhino, Sumatran Rhino, Greater One-horned Rhino, and Javan Rhino are the five surviving rhino species in Africa. There are only about 27,000 of these stunning creatures left on Earth. Their declining population is ascribed to habitat loss, isolated small populations that hinder fruitful reproduction, and of course rustling. They have been under threat of extinction, and the Sumatran rhino particularly is on the edge of disappearing completely.


The behavioural inclinations, as well as conservation, biological, and environmental needs of the five rhino species, are quite different.


Preserving these creatures in Africa has, over the years, demanded boots on the ground, special training for custodians, early warning, community involvement, investigation and forensic techniques, intensive monitoring and the crackdown on rustlers, among other measures.




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