The South African

The last decade has seen poaching brutality against rhinos rise so sharply, that people are beginning to fear they will be culled to extinction in the near future.
The Department of Environmental Affairs yesterday published their report on South Africa’s state of rhino poaching for 2017. With 13 more rhinos being killed at this point last year compared to now, the Department declared it a step in the right direction.

However, it’s a very hollow victory. Though Kruger has beefed up its security and drove away many poachers, it has only encouraged them to hit areas like KwaZulu-Natal, who are now suffering from their worst spate of poaching in recent years
Their report gave us a few eye-opening statistics:
Arrests for Rhino Poaching
How is Rhino Poaching Being Stopped?

. The Hawks have made arrests and seizures in 9 cases involving rhino horn traffickers, involving 13 suspects and approximately 140kgs of rhino horn.
. INTERPOL’s Operation Thunderbird – a week-long operation in South Africa – utilised 30 aircraft and 1,657 vehicles (including buses and trucks)
. 1,857 pieces of luggage and 632 people were searched. A total of 480 shipping containers were opened and inspected. These searches led to some of the arrest figures above.

Rhino Poaching Statistics
. A total of 529 rhinos have been poached since January 2017, compared to 542 in the same period for 2016, representing a decrease of 13 rhinos.
. With regards to the Kruger National Park (KNP), a total of 243 rhino carcases were found between January and the end of June 2017. This is compared to 354 in the same period in 2016. This represents a decrease of 34%.

. In the reporting period, a total of 359 alleged poachers and traffickers have been arrested nationally. The number of arrests inside the Kruger National Park totalled 90 alleged poachers with 112 arrested adjacent to the KNP.
. The Stock Theft and Endangered Species Unit have been working to push for convictions: Since January, 15 cases have been recently finalised which resulted in convictions with 22 perpetrators being sentenced to a total of 95 years.

STROOP filmmaker Bonné de Bod – who is documenting how the poaching industry works – didn’t share the DEA’s cautious optimism:
“If we exclude Kruger’s dramatic decrease this year it tells us another story, which is we have had a huge increase in rhino poaching nationally, up by over 50%.”
“So I’m afraid no good news out of this press conference for private rhino owners and smaller parks outside of Kruger, where the onslaught seems to be ramping up.”
The briefing did at least highlight the extensive efforts authorities are going to in order to try and stem the poaching, but the conviction figures stand out like a sore thumb.
Swifter sentencing and stronger deterrents would as big of a help to rhino conservation than any other comprehensive plan we’ve seen so far.

KS COMMENT:

The RHINO STATS released by the South African Department of Environmental Affairs – 529 from January to June 2017 compared to 542 for the same period last year, 13 fewer dead rhino is appears like good news, even if it is only a minor drop. But the fine detail shows stats that are not good – both the number of repeat offenders and also the continuing increase in poaching in KwaZulu- Natal.

There is a large number of poachers with repeat offences while out on bail; and the number of cases with charges in triple figures that are dragging on for years shows that even when poachers are caught they may never go to prison.

While the national average is down, the KZN figures are way up, with an upsurge in July. There are also a worrying number of killings of rhino in other provinces away from Kruger.

The details show, also, that while kill rate is down, the numbers of incursions (and crimes in addition to poaching) are up. And very concerning is the increase in the the numbers of people injured or assaulted during poachings and incursions (not just rangers and APU but managers and staff are also being targeted). It also fails to mention a disturbing trend (both local and globally) of poaching in captive facilities including orphanages, quarantine facilities and zoos. And the displacement activity of Kruger poachers moving to shoot elephants outside the Park's intensive protection zone.

Rhino poaching is thriving in an environment of corruption and costing the country economically and socially. Rhino poaching is big business and not
just for the poachers and syndicates.