Lockdown restrictions help cut rhino poaching by half this year

In one of the unexpected benefits of the pandemic and consequent lockdown, rhino poaching in South Africa has decreased by around half in the first six months of 2020.


While it can be justifiably argued that even one poached rhino is one too many, the number of animals killed for their horns decreased from 316 in the first six months of last year to 166 in the first six months of this year.


There have also been increased efforts on the part of various authorities including SAPS, SARS customs officials, SANParks and the Green Scorpions, according to the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy.

Minister says a decade of effort is paying off


"After a decade of implementing various strategies and campaigning against ever increasing rhino poaching by local poachers recruited and managed by crime syndicates, efforts are paying off," the minister said in a statement released on Friday.


"We have been able to arrest the escalation of rhino losses," she stated.


She said that, with the COVID-19 associated countrywide law enforcement measures to restrict movement, the decline in rhino poaching compared to the same period last year is "striking".


This reprieve was specifically welcome in the Kruger National Park where, during April, no rhino were killed in the Intensive Protection Zone for the first time in almost 10 years.

Nevertheless, 46 rhino died during lockdown


Between the start of the lockdown on 27 March and until the end of June, 46 rhino were poached across the country. Of these, 14 rhino were poached during April, 13 during May and 19 in June.


In the Kruger National Park, 88 rhino were poached in the first six months of 2020. As the lockdown restrictions have gradually been lifted, so the rhino poaching incidents have slowly increased, Creecy said.

Almost 100 poaching suspects have been arrested


Between January and June, 38 suspected rhino poachers were arrested in the Kruger National Park and 23 firearms confiscated.


A further 57 suspects have been arrested during joint operations involving SAPS and the SANParks Environmental Crime Investigation (ECI) unit.


There was also a failed attempt to smuggle rhino horn valued at around R115 million through OR Tambo International Airport in July, which was foiled by customs officials.