2010 “worst year” for rhino poaching

WARNING: This post contains graphic images of rhinos that have been maimed and killed.

More than 330 rhino were poached in South Africa this year – more than in any other year. It’s disgusting. It’s maddening. It really makes me sad.

Here’s the press release from Dr David Mabunda, of the SA National Parks

2010 WORST YEAR FOR RHINO POACHING

The Chief Executive Officer of South African National Parks (SANParks), Dr David Mabunda, announced at Pretoria today that in 2010 South Africa lost 333 rhinos with 162 suspected poachers having been arrested in relation to the crime.

“The year 2010 will always be remembered as being one of the worst years for conservation in the Republic of South Africa (RSA) because of the ruthless assault on our rhino populations by merciless criminals”, said Dr Mabunda.

The worst hit areas were the Kruger National Park (KNP) with 146 rhinos lost, North West province with 57 rhinos, Limpopo province with 52 rhinos, KwaZulu-Natal province with 38 rhinos. The provinces with the least number of rhinos or no rhinos at all were least targeted by the criminals.

In the full year 162 people linked to the crime at various levels were arrested, ranging from actual poachers to couriers. “The number of arrests made are considered to be an indication of the meaningful interventions brought by the National Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit (NWCRU) as the figure for arrests in the KNP alone for 2009 was 29 people and in 2010 the park arrested 67 suspects”.

Whereas SANParks lost 146 rhinos in the KNP, the Provincial Conservation Authorities put together 105 rhinos whilst private game reserve owners lost 82 rhinos. Of the 333 rhinos lost throughout the country white rhinos comprised 323 of the animals poached and 10 black rhinos.

The country is currently home to about 19,400 white rhinos, of which between 9,000 and 12,000 of them are found in the KNP, and 1678 black rhinos. The white rhino population in the country is growing at a rate of between 3% and 6%, whilst the black rhino population is growing at 3%. In the Kruger National Park alone natural mortalities in the rhino populations for males accounted for 1.7% and females 0.7% and with the inclusion of poaching figures it was at 3% for males and 2.1% for females in 2010.

Dr Mabunda announced that it is unfortunate that about five (5) suspected poachers died during encounters with rangers on patrol in the KNP and one (1) in the North West Province as the country would have preferred these suspected criminals to have their day in court and explain to the nation why they would commit such an unforgivable crime against the people of South Africa.

He said last year (2010) the country reported six poachers killed in confrontation with the Rangers, five of those were killed in KNP. “As much as this killings are regrettable, it is also an indication of how serious SANParks and the entire conservation fraternity is serious about fighting the surge in poaching happening in protected areas.”

In the first 10 days of 2011 RSA has lost five (5) rhinos; 2 in KNP, 2 in Limpopo and 1 in the Eastern Cape. A number of undisclosed arrests were also effected in the same period.

He said since the beginning of this year a total of five (5) more poachers have died when Rangers acted in self-defence after poachers opened fire on them at Crocodile Bridge (in the last week) and Pretorius kop (today, 11 January 2011).

“In 2011 the NWCRU is planning to increase the intensity of the investigations and arrests by getting to the higher echelons of these syndicates. With the help of the international community we are confident we will be able to break these syndicates.”

SANParks is extremely grateful to the South African government and the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans for the offer of support by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) for the KNP anti-poaching activities. The inclusion of the SANDF with their state of the art surveillance equipment will add much needed impetus to the fight against rhino poaching and other forms of poaching, said Dr Mabunda.

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