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South African rhino poaching dip accelerates in lockdown

Poaching figures dropped by a third in 2020, with South Africa's environmental ministry citing the coronavirus lockdown as a significant reason for this. The country is home to 80% of the world's rhinoceroses.

By: Deutsche Welle |
February 2, 2021 1:34:52 pm
Rhino poaching figures decreased for a sixth straight year in South Africa. (Source: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Fayad via DW)

The number of rhinoceroses killed by poachers in South Africa’s national parks dropped by a third last year, according to official figures released on Monday.

The fall in deaths was aided by the country’s coronavirus lockdown which restricted the movement of poachers, according to South Africa’s environmental ministry.

At least 394 rhinos were slaughtered in 2020, compared to 594 the previous year.

Most of the rhinos were killed in the Kruger National Park, a popular tourist location bordering Mozambique. It is also South Africa’s largest national park and was where 245 of the horned mammals were poached last year.

In total, Kruger saw 1,573 poaching activities take place in 2020, a 21.9% fall on the 2019 official figures.

“During the COVID hard lockdown period we had a significant reduction in poacher incursions into the Kruger,” Environment Minister Barbara Creecy said in a statement.

Ease in lockdown caused poaching to pick back up

However, as South Africa eased its restrictions, it also logged a resumption in poachers’ activities.

“A significant spike in poaching was experienced towards the end [of] 2020, especially during December,” Creecy said.

South Africa, home to nearly 80% of the world’s rhinos, has seen its poaching figures steadily decrease every year since 2015, when the number of deaths recorded peaked at 1,215.

Coordinated efforts, especially involving African neighboring governments, to crack down on poaching are still fairly new and are beginning to bear fruit, according to South Africa’s Creecy. Major arrests in recent years and higher conviction rates for poachers are among the reasons suspected for the broader downward trend in poaching activity in Kruger National Park and other wildlife reserves.

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