LONDON — The marked plunge in rhino deaths in South Africa to 769 in 2018 is clearly something that we need to rejoice in. It is the first time since 2012 that this number drops below 1,000 and it means that the anti-poaching drive, especially in the Kruger National park is working. However, it still means that more than 2 rhinos were killed every single day last year. And it begs the question whether the numbers are not declining because there are fewer rhinos in our parks to poach, which means it is harder to locate them. A ban on the local trading of rhino horn was overturned by the Constitutional Court in 2017 and after it lost the case, the South African government has issued draft regulations governing trade within our borders. A key meeting for rhinos will be this year’s CITES in Sri Lanka where eSwatini (Swaziland) is again going to table a proposal to allow trade in the horns of its white rhinos, while Namibia wants to allow live animal trade and trophy hunting. Hopefully South Africa will stick to its present position of opposing the international trade in rhino horn and urge countries where there is a market for rhino horn to curb demand. – Linda van Tilburg
By Antony Sguazzin
(Bloomberg) – South Africa, home to almost all of the world’s rhinoceroses, said the number of the animals killed by poachers plunged by 25% last year as it stepped up efforts to save the endangered species.
With 769 rhinos poached, it was the first year since 2012 that less than 1,000 of the animals were killed illegally, the Department of Environmental Affairs said in a statement. The animals are targeted for their horns, which are believed in Asia to help cure cancer and boost male virility. The horns are made of keratin, a hair-like substance. The number of rhino deaths peaked at 1,215 in 2014.
The fight against rhino poaching in South Africa has become emblematic of the global struggle against wildlife traffickers, with national awareness campaigns ranging from documentaries to the sale of plastic horns, which are attached to people’s cars.
The decline in rhino deaths is “a confirmation of the commitment and dedication of the men and women working at the coalface to save the species,” said Minister of Environmental Affairs Nomvula Mokonyane, who is also known as Mama Action.
More than half of the rhinos were killed in the Kruger National Park, a reserve the size of Israel that lies on South Africa’s border with Mozambique. Poachers frequently cross the border and hunt the animals with automatic weapons and night sights before sawing off the horns.
During the year, 365 alleged poachers were arrested countrywide along with 36 horn traffickers, the department said.