|Rhino poaching stats a concern|
The latest, shocking rhino poaching statistics have prompted conservation agencies to call for more action from the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs.
The figures show that 455 rhinos have been lost to poaching since the beginning of this year, with the number of arrests totalling 207.
The total number of animals poached last year was 448 while 232 arrests were made.
In the Kruger National Park, 272 rhinos were poached, followed by KwaZulu-Natal with 55 – 21 more than last year.
The rest were poached in Limpopo, North West, Western Cape and Mpumalanga.
The department said 179 of those arrested were poachers while 10 were receivers and 18 couriers.
The Kruger National Park recorded a drop in arrests from 82 last year to 51 this year, while KZN has arrested seven more poachers than the four arrested last year.
The numbers for last year reflect the full year and the statistics released this week are up to this month.
WWF SA said the latest statistics was a cause for concern because more rhinos have been killed this year, compared to the total number of animals killed last year.
WWF SA’s rhino co-ordinator Dr Jo Shaw said: “Despite our predictions that South Africa would lose about 550 rhino this year, the most recent figure is disappointing as last year’s total has already been exceeded by mid-October.”
“To-date, rhino numbers continue to grow in South Africa as more rhinos are being born than are dying, even when poaching mortalities are taken into account,” said Shaw.
“However, we are approaching the critical tipping point where rhino numbers go into decline and would undermine conservation efforts.”
Brian Sandberg, of the United Rhino Network, said the Kruger National Park and parks in KZN lacked a permanent force dedicated to tackling the scourge.
“The SANDF has a presence there [game reserves] but clearly more needs to be done. The biggest threat to rhino survival is the government dragging its feet.”
He said that Mozambique had been identified as a conduit for the illegal transport of rhino horn, but little had been done to re-enforce the border.
“Another problem is that while some organisations are doing fabulous work, they are terribly under-resourced. We need more people on the ground.”