Lockdowns brought down poaching rates in Africa, but rhinos still under threat

Poaching numbers went down in 2020 thanks to the COVID-19 lockdown; they went up again in 2021

Rhino poaching rates in Africa have declined to 2.3 per cent in 2021 from 3.9 per cent in 2018, according to a new report.

The report released August 22, 2022, mentions that this decline is not good news for the two-horned animal as they are still facing enormous threats in Africa. According to the published report, at least 2,707 rhinos were poached in Africa between 2018 and 2021. This includes critically endangered black rhinos and near-threatened white rhinos.

The report was compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Species Survival Commission (SSC), African and Asian Rhino specialist groups and TRAFFIC, a non-profit.

The African Rhino Specialist Group gathered information from 13 rhino-range countries — Botswana, Chad, Eswatini, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe — for the report.

The data shows that rhinoceros poaching rates in Africa have declined to 2.3 per cent in 2021 from a peak of 5.3 per cent of the total population in 2015.

South Africa accounted for 90 per cent of all reported poaching cases, including white rhinos in the Kruger National Park, according to a media statement released by the country’s department of forestry, fisheries and the environment. The demand for horns in southeast Asia is the main reason for poaching. Sophisticated transnational organised crime networks are involved in this wildlife crime.

The global lockdowns and restrictions in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic reduced poaching rates compared to previous years. South Africa lost 394 rhinos to poaching in 2020, while Kenya didn’t record any poaching that year.

But as the restrictions were lifted, the poaching rates started slowly rising again. South Africa reported 451 and Kenya reported six cases in 2021. There has been an increase in poaching on private properties as well.

Of the 451 rhinos poached in South Africa in 2021, 327 were within government reserves and 124 were on private properties.

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