The official number of rhinos poached in 2019 has been released this week, and the news is good. Environment Minister Barbara Creecy told media that while the numbers were still high at 594 rhinos illegally poached in South Africa in 2019, this figure is down for the fourth consecutive year.
The declining numbers have been interpreted to mean that measures implemented by the government including improved capabilities to react to poaching incidents, better situational awareness, the deployment of technology and improved information collection and sharing among law enforcement authorities, is working.
A total of 769 rhinos were poached in 2018, which is down from the official 1124 poached in 2017 and 1167 in 2016 and 1349 in 2015. A mere 60 rhinos a year were poached in 2006 and 2007, with numbers suddenly skyrocketing to horrifying levels before the slow decline that began in 2015.
“Plans to combat wildlife crime are constantly being updated and adapted to meet the incessant and ever-present threat. We are also making greater use of innovative ideas and new technologies as government in order to address the relentless onslaught against our natural resources and ecosystems,” the minister said.
Clearly however the rhino is not out of the woods as the numbers are still extremely high says rhino preservation organisation Save The Rhino.
“Despite the good news, the long-term impact of the poaching crisis is taking its toll, as well the prolonged drought affecting food and water crisis,“ the group said in a statement to The SouthAfrican.
“One of the challenges that the ongoing poaching crisis brings is that it diverts attention from other actions that are important for rhinos to thrive in future. While anti-poaching measures are still a high priority, it’s important that we don’t forget the other tools in the box: Biological management, community engagement, capacity building as well as national and international coordination.”