Rhino poaching in South Africa: A slight decline in the first half of 2023, says environment ministry

But 143 rhinos were killed in KwaZulu-Natal in the first six months of this year, an increase from 133 in the first half of 2022

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Friday 04 August 2023
A rhino horn. Photo: iStock

Rhino poaching in South Africa decreased in the first six months of 2023, according to a statement released by the country’s Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) on August 1, 2023.

Poachers killed 231 rhinos between January 1 and June 30, compared to 259 in the same period in 2022, the ministry said. Between January 1 and June 30, poaching trends also continued to show a move away from the Kruger National Park to provincial and private reserves, notably Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, the ministry added.

Forty two rhinos were poached in the Kruger National Park from January to June 2023. One forty three were killed in the province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) in the first six months of this year, an increase from 133 in the first half of 2022.

South Africa is home to more than 15,000 rhinos out of a global population of 27,000 of the animals across five sub-species in Africa and Asia, according to the International Rhino Foundation. 

The South African Cabinet approved the National Integrated Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking in May this year. This will strengthen the collaboration between law enforcement agencies like the South African Police Service, DPCI and the Green Scorpions, Customs officials, the Financial Intelligence Centre and the National Prosecuting Authority.

DFFE Minister Barbara Creecy stated: 

This strategy aims to break the illicit value chain of wildlife trafficking in South Africa and beyond its borders. It represents a commitment by government to direct law enforcement ability and effort and mobilise society support to address the threat wildlife tracking poses to national security and the country’s rich biodiversity. Although currently our main focus is rhino, the Strategy also aims to address the illegal trade in, and poaching of, other species that are threatened by trafficking syndicates, like abalone.

In the first six months of this year, 31 poaching offenders were convicted. The majority of sentences were custodial.

In Skukuza, a town in Mpumalanga province which is the administrative headquarters of the Kruger National Park, one suspect found guilty of killing three rhinos and possession of unlawful arms and ammunition was sentenced to an effective 32-year imprisonment.

In another matter, three accused were found driving in Kruger National Park, with five rhino horns hidden in the vehicle. Accused one and two were sentenced to 34 years imprisonment, while accused three was sentenced to 39 years imprisonment.

The National Prosecuting Authority has also designated a prosecutor to facilitate rhino cases in KZN and cases have been prioritised and identified to be expedited through the court processes.

The Kruger National Park has developed a holistic Ranger Services — Integrity Management Plan.

This plan aims to improve ranger morale and resilience to corruption by providing services that enhance ranger health and well-being, provide training and counselling, offer a range of financial management services and debt management.

Creecy attributed the overall downward trend in poaching to the incredible work of rangers and law enforcement agencies.

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