In KwaZulu-Natal alone, 18 rhino have been poached since the beginning of the year, which is already more than half the total number killed in the province in 2011. Officials in the province say this is largely due to an increase in poaching on private game farms.
Statistics released by the Department of Environmental Affairs this afternoon (19 April 2012) revealed that about a tenth of all rhino killed in the country since the beginning of the year were poached in KZN. Thirty-four were killed in 2011, and 38 in 2010. KZN was one of only four provinces – along with Gauteng, North West and the Northern Cape – to have seen a decline in poaching numbers between 2010 and 2011.
In total, the department said 181 rhino had been killed across the country since the start of the year. This is already about 40 percent of the total 448 rhino killed during 2011. It’s up sharply from figures released just a week ago, which said that 171 rhino had been poached.
The area most affected is the Kruger National Park, where 111 rhino have been poached since the beginning of the year. It is a massive jump from figures provided by the department a month ago. On March 19, the department said 75 rhino had been killed at Kruger National Park, meaning 36 had been killed in just 30 days.
According to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife rhino security co-ordinator Jabulani Ngubane, his unit was now working with private game farms to try reduce the number of poaching incidents.
“This year we have experienced a sharp increase in rhino killings in the private sector. Of the 18 that have been killed in KZN, nine have been on private farms. Ezemvelo has implemented an anti-rhino poaching strategy, increased our security and tightened up any loopholes we might have had in our operations. This means that the private sector has become a soft target, which is why we have seen them being affected,” he said.
Ngubane said the KZN Rhino Project had been set up to give support to private game farm owners. Equipment, training and anti-poaching strategies were also being given to deal with the problem. And he believes it’s bearing fruit.
“The situation is improving. We saw a sharp spike in the beginning of the year, but it’s quiet at the moment. We’ve gone a few weeks without a rhino going down, which wasn’t the case before. We are starting to see a difference being made.
“When you implement a new strategy, you don’t expect a result immediately. It happens slowly, but are already starting to get results. I am optimistic that our figures will show an improvement from last year,” he said.
One of the postives, though, is that a large number of people have been arrested for rhino poaching since the start of the year. Most recent of the 111 arrests was that of a man in Mpumalanga. According to the statement issued today, the Matsulu community worked with SA National Parks to affect the arrest.
“The department believes that the public’s active involvement in fighting rhino poaching can lead to more arrests and contribute in addressing this scourge of rhino poaching. This united approach can result in South Africa winning the war against rhino poaching,” the statement said.