The South African government through its Minister of Environment has finally given the statistics that everyone was waiting on rhino poaching in the country. The authorities were pleased to have reversed the slaughter curve thanks to the many radical measures implemented.
“We are very pleased to announce that, for the first time in ten years, the poaching situation has been stabilized” said the minister during a press conference.
The result now: while the number of rhinos poached in South Africa had quickly increased from 13 in 2007 to 1,004 in 2013 and reached the record number of 1,215 in 2014, the number was only 1,175 in 2015 (see chart below).
In the chart: « High increase of rhino poaching”
Before you decide to send an honest message of congratulations to the South African government, it is necessary to think for a while. In my opinion, two important criteria should be taken into account when measuring the effect of announcement of these statistics.
- A number (several hundred) of rhinos from Kruger Park were relocated to other safer reserves within the country. It’s in this national park near the borders of Zimbabwe and Mozambique, in particular, that the majority of rhinos are poached. So we just moved part of the populations and drastic decisions were not necessarily taken on the affected areas.
- The number of rhinos poached rose sharply in Namibia and Zimbabwe. Therefore, there has been a shift, expected and announced for years, operated by poachers towards easier areas for them. Namibia will have to be even better prepared to face this shift in the coming year.
Even if we have to recognize that the carnage in South Africa stopped, unfortunately there is an increase over the whole southern Africa. Another indicator that is very worrying is the doubling of disappearances over births, which is a sign of a coming disaster for the whole race.
It’s important not to give up and accept this dramatic result. For years some NGOs have warned African governments to increase the number of Rangers, better train them and better equip them. In the same way as Chad and Kenya, the South African government has even decided, since 2014, to call on the army to secure the Kruger Park and other national parks. I don’t think the results are very convincing, especially for South Africa. They lack a true body of rangers, used to the bush and animals, well organized, supported by suitable means, etc. to summarize, it’s necessary to professionalize this job.
All the African countries, involved in the poaching of elephants, rhinos, and more generally of all endangered species, must strongly go into action. Again we do not question the governments’ sovereignty but it is essential that governments work with NGOs willing to make things happen.
Mathematically speaking, 1,175 in South Africa + 80 in Namibia + 50 announced in Zimbabwe (for NGOs the count is wrong but nothing can be checked with the Mugabe authorities) = more than 1,300 rhinos slaughtered in these three countries during the year. We are still on an average of 4 rhinos killed every day!
Early 2015 statistics were mentioning just less than 15,000 rhinos in Africa. A quick calculation shows us that the situation is more than critical, although according to the South African ministry, we can be proud of having reduced the number of animals poached in 2015.