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Relentless pressure forces rhino poachers to abandon national parks in 2022, says Creecy

White Rhinos. Image: Wikimedia Commons

By the South African Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment | February 6, 2023

South Africa’s relentless fight against rhino poaching in the Kruger Park and other national parks saw a decline in poaching numbers across the country.

In 2022, 124 rhinos were killed in the Kruger National Park. No rhinos were poached in any other national park. The number of rhinos poached in the Kruger National Park represents a 40% decrease compared with those killed for their horn 2021.

Unfortunately, the poaching threat has shifted to KwaZulu-Natal, which lost 244 rhino to poaching last year. Of these, 228 were killed in provincial parks and 16 in privately owned reserves. The Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park was specifically targeted.

In total across the country private rhino owners lost 86 rhinos. The number of rhinos killed in the past year represents a slight decline (of 3) compared to the 451 rhinos poached in South Africa in 2021.

“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.” Said Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy.

“This year’s outcome shows that collaboration between conservation authorities, the South African Police Services, revenue authorities and international agencies works,” the minister added.

“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,” said Minister Creecy.

In 2022 several successful arrests and prosecutions were recorded, adding weight to the integrated work of the law enforcement agencies, including the SAPS, Hawks, SANParks, Environmental Enforcement Fusion Centre, the Environmental Management Inspectorate or Green Scorpions, customs officials, provincial park authorities, and the National Prosecuting Authority.

A total of 132 arrests were affected during 2022 for rhino poaching: 23 in the Skukuza area in Mpumalanga, 49 in KwaZulu-Natal and the balance in Limpopo.

The recent focus on money laundering and international co-operation with other law enforcement authorities saw the arrest of 26 rhino horn traffickers and 13 people for money laundering and bribing of rangers.

To support anti-poaching efforts in KwaZulu-Natal, special interventions were introduced in collaboration with the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), non-governmental organizations and the South African Police Service (SAPS) which resulted in four key arrests of syndicate members who were focusing their illegal efforts in KwaZulu-Natal. These agencies will continue to collaborate this year.

The work of the department’s Environmental Enforcement Fusion Centre (EEFC) enables authorities to track information pertaining to wildlife crime at a national level and understand trends and changing modus operandi while supporting the investigative and tactical teams.

During 2022, the NPA in collaboration with the DFFE established a Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Environmental Working Group (EWG). 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.

As part of continued efforts to ensure the survival of the rhino species, SANParks, is in the process of identifying suitable safe habitat across South Africa for the introduction of new rhino communities.

** Members of the public can report any suspicious activities around wildlife to its environmental crime hotline which is 0800 205 005 or the SAPS number 10111

To access a recording of Minister Creecy’s statement, click below:

For media inquiries contact:
Albi Modise
Cell: 083 490 2871

Editor’s note: The provincial and national breakdown for 2022 (in comparison to 2021 and 2020) is as follows:

Some other important arrests and prosecutions that took place during 2022 include:

  • The notoriously well-known Mozambican rhino poaching kingpin, Simon Tivani aka Navara, who was arrested in Maputo in a combined sting operation between the Mozambican authorities and the Wildlife Justice Commission.
  • The arrest of a South African man at Changi Airport in Singapore with 34 kg of rhino horn, South Africa is working closely with Singapore authorities to investigate the syndicate involved.
  • In relation to rhino prosecutions, verdicts were handed down in 62 cases which resulted in the conviction of 92 accused rhino poachers/rhino horn traffickers with a conviction rate of 100%.
  • An accused in the Skukuza court was charged for the killing of 2 rhinos in the Kruger National Park and the possession of unlawful firearms and ammunition.  He was sentenced to effectively 34 years imprisonment.
  • In another matter, an accused was convicted for the killing 1 rhino in the Kruger National Park, possession of unlawful firearms and ammunition, possession of a dangerous weapons and trespassing and sentenced to 17 years imprisonment.