Alarming rhino poaching rates reported in Southern Africa

black rhino and calf

South Africa announced its first decrease in rhino poaching since 2007, but an increase in the number of rhinos killed in neighboring countries offsets this slight improvement.

The South African government confirmed 1,175 rhinos were lost in the country in 2015—slightly down from 1,215 in the previous year.

Unfortunately, at least 130 rhinos died at the hands of poachers in neighboring Namibia and Zimbabwe during that same period—up nearly 200 percent from the previous year.

“As governments like South Africa continue to ramp up efforts to stop wildlife poaching, these numbers remind us of the urgency to swiftly address this crisis across all fronts,” said Ginette Hemley, senior vice president of wildlife conservation for WWF. “Although South Africa remains the epicenter for the rhino poaching epidemic, criminal networks appear to be expanding their reach across the region, and the problem is ultimately rooted in demand for rhino horn in Asia, most notably in Vietnam.”

Though poachers still focus primarily on South Africa, the uptick in figures from Namibia and Zimbabwe suggest that criminal networks are expanding their reach in the region—targeting rhinos in previously secure areas. South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe are home to nearly 95 percent of all remaining African rhinos.

We need to act now
Wildlife crime is the most immediate threat to wild rhinos, elephants, and tigers. Demand for rhino horns—along with elephant ivory and tiger products—runs rampant in parts of the world, particularly in Asia.

WWF emphasizes that stopping rhino poaching requires not just a law enforcement response, but also involvement of local communities around protected areas.

Together, we need to commit to long-term demand reduction efforts to protect rhinos.