Cape Town, South Africa -- World Wildlife Fund (WWF) welcomes the reported decline in the number of rhinos lost to poaching in South Africa in 2019, as announced by the Department of the Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) today, and commends Minister Barbara Creecy for sharing the results of the combined efforts of government, private, community and NGO partners.
DEFF has reported that the number of rhinos lost to poaching declined from 769 in 2018 to 594 in 2019. The department has also reported a decline in elephant poaching from 71 in 2018 to 31 in 2019.
It’s positive to see rhino losses being recognized as not simply a poaching issue but due to serious transnational organized crime syndicates as well as the reported good cooperation with rhino horn consumer countries such as China, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Japan.
The integrated response across law enforcement entities, including the Stock Theft and Endangered Species Unit of SAPS, the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigations (Hawks), SANParks, provincial park authorities, Environmental Management Inspectors and Customs as well as the National Prosecuting Authority are acknowledged as key to the achievement.
However, the number of rhinos lost to poaching should be considered in relation to the number of live animals remaining and without this information it is hard to evaluate the full picture regarding the current status of our rhino populations. Further concern is that the draft National Integrated Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking (NISCWT) has yet to be adopted by Cabinet. It will also be critical to see the successful conclusion of the outstanding high profile cases on the court roll for 2020.
The reduction in poaching numbers is a positive sign, however the problem is not solved and rhinos remain under threat from organized crime syndicates as well as availability of suitable habitat in the long-term.
Dr. Jo Shaw, Senior Manager, Wildlife Program, WWF-South Africa:
“As noted by the Department, law enforcement efforts alone cannot address the complex social and economic drivers behind the long-term threats to our rhinos. What is required is a commitment to a holistic approach which considers the attitudes, opportunities and safety of people living around protected areas. The role of corruption, inevitably associated with organized crime syndicates, must also be addressed.”