Rhino poaching drops significantly during COVID-19 lockdown

By May 23, 2020Anti-poaching
The South African Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries | May 22, 2020

The Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries has announced that South Africa has experienced a significant decline in rhino poaching since the lockdown commenced.

April 2020 saw a marked decrease in rhino poaching countrywide, with the fewest rhinos poached in the Kruger National Park in a single month since September 2013.

“This could be attributed to the reduction in rhino poaching activities to the disruption of the supply chain resulting from the national travel restrictions, including limitations placed on movement across the country,” explained Minister Creecy.

A total of 14 rhino were poached across the country during April – the first month of the national Covid-19 lockdown. A total of 46 rhino were poached nationwide in March 2020.

“We believe that the closure of our borders and the complete shutdown of international air travel removed the key way that syndicates used to supply horn to transit and consumer countries,” said Minister Creecy.

In the Kruger National Park five rhino were poached during April 2020, compared to 46 in April 2019.   In KwaZulu-Natal six rhino were poached, two were killed in Mpumalanga and one in North West Province. In April 2019, a total of 61 rhino were poached nationwide.

Significantly, not a single rhino has been lost in the Intensive Protection Zone of the Kruger National Park since the start of April. This has not happened in this particular part of the Greater Kruger area in a single month since 2007.

The sharp decrease in rhino poaching in the Kruger National Park last month comes after the park recorded that the number of births equalled the combined natural and poaching deaths for the first time in five years by the end of 2019.

Despite the lockdown, incursions into the Park by rhino poachers have continued.

There has been an increase in the effectiveness of the K9 unit using free running hounds supported by rapid reaction through air support and improved mobility.

Minister Creecy applauded Rangers who continue to apply technology to support early detection and follow-up operations.

Between January and April 2020, 33 poachers were arrested and 20 heavy calibre firearms confiscated.

Following an intelligence-driven operation, police arrested three suspects in Limpopo after they were found in possession of six rhino horn. The two men and a woman have been changed with trafficking of rhino horn.  During the arrest, six rhino horn, a sizeable amount of cash, three vehicles and a number of hunting knives were confiscated.

Pertaining to bushmeat poaching, rangers continue to remove between 80 and 150 snares from especially the western boundary of the park.  It should be noted that poaching for bushmeat in the Kruger National Park has not increased because of the lockdown.

Because of the nationwide lockdown, SANParks has closed park entrance gates to tourists.  This has had an impacted on poaching as poachers are now unable to use drive-in and drop-off tactics they had previously utilised to kill rhino for their horn.

“The dedication of essential staff, particularly our rangers, anti-poaching and canine (K9) teams who remain on high alert in all our national parks during the Covid-19 national lockdown, is to be commended,” said the Minister.