Rhino poaching is on the decline in the Kruger National Park – the area hardest hit by the crime – says Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa.
Minister Molewa, said on Sunday that the carcasses of 458 poached rhinos were found in Kruger National Park between January and the end of August, down about 18 percent from the same period last year.
The Minister said this in a statement on Sunday on progress in the implementation of the Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros. The period under review covers the period 1 May 2016 to 31 August 2016.
The report revealed that poaching rates, or the number of carcasses as a percentage of the number of live rhinos, estimated the previous September for each year, reduced by 15.5% compared between the same periods in 2015 (9.6%) and 2016 (7.9%).
The figures come amid a 27.87 % increase in the number of illegal incursions into the Kruger National Park – a staggering 2 115 for the first eight months of 2016.
Nationally, 702 rhino were poached since the beginning of 2016 whereas between January and July 2015, a total of 796 rhino were poached.
Minister Molewa said there may be indications that the success of anti-poaching efforts in the Kruger National Park has led to poaching syndicates shifting operations to other provinces.
In the period under review, the number of rhino poached has increased in a number of other provinces such as KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State and the Northern Cape, in comparison to the same period in 2015.
She said despite these increases there is still a downward trend in the number of rhino poached.
“It is also of concern that we have begun experiencing an increase in elephant poaching, despite the vigorous and determined efforts by our rangers, the police and soldiers on the ground.
“Since January 36 elephants have been poached in the KNP,” said the Minister.
She said government was utilising experience and expertise gained through efforts to combat rhino poaching to end elephant poaching as well.
“What is evident, is that these successes can be attributed to the work being done on the ground by our people, our hardworking law enforcement teams and our rangers in particular,” said Minister Molewa.
The combined efforts of the department, law-enforcement and the conservation agencies with the support of international partners and donors are slowly but steadily making a dent in the rhino poaching numbers.
Rhino poaching was declared a National Priority Crime in 2014 and the issue continues to receive the highest level of attention from the department, the country’s law-enforcement authorities, and the prosecution service.