Statistics are pointing to a steady decline in rhino poaching in South Africa, however Kruger National Park has still lost 190 rhinos in the first six months of 2019.
Crime statistics released by the South African Police Service (SAPS) have put the figure for overall poaching in 2018/2019 at 520 rhinos, 12% less than last year.
Barbara Creecy, Minister of environment, forestry and fisheries, said in a statement on World Rhino Day:
“We will redouble our efforts to make sure that communities who live on the borders of our parks benefit from conservation and the biodiversity economy, so they are not vulnerable to recruitment by syndicated poaching operations,”
She added that more than half of the 318 poaching incidences between January and June 2019 happened in the Kruger National Park, despite extensive anti-poaching initiatives.
Conservationists and wildlife authorities in South Africa are concerned that these statistics, which show a decline in rhino poaching over the last two years, are potentially misleading. Conservation group Save the Rhino explains that while anti-poaching efforts may well have played a part in the decline, there is also the possibility that fewer rhinos are surviving in the wild making it harder for poachers to find them.
Evidence from Asia supports this as the trade in rhino horn has not decreased in proportion to the number of rhinos poached in South Africa.
In 2018, WildAid stated that statistics showing a decline in rhino poaching were released at the same time that authorities from Hong Kong announced a record-breaking seizure of rhino horn from two air passengers travelling from South Africa to Vietnam.
CEO of WildAid Peter Knights said in a statement on their website:
“While South Africa celebrates a decline in poaching, Hong Kong SAR makes another record seizure, showing the crisis goes on as rhino numbers continue to decline,
To stop organized crime we still need to prosecute the kingpins in South Africa and Mozambique as well as the buyers in China and Vietnam. Apprehending the foot soldiers and mules that have been caught to date is simply not enough,”
Along with anti-poaching efforts in South Africa, work needs to be done to curb the trade across Asia.