South Africa News

Kruger National Park records a 37% decrease in rhino poaching

The Kruger National Park (KNP) recorded a 37% decrease in rhino poaching from 2022, with a total of 78 poached in 2023.

The minister of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, said the hefty sentences imposed on rhino poachers had an impact on decreasing rhino poaching in the KNP.

The minister delivered the rhino poaching statistics for 2023 on Tuesday February 27. Creecy said during the first six months of 2023, the department was hard at work with the SAPS and the National Prosecuting Authority, and this had led to the conviction of 31 offenders.

In Skukuza, one poacher who was found guilty of killing three rhinos and for the possession of illegal firearms and ammunition, was sentenced to an effective 32 years’ imprisonment. In another matter, three accused found driving in Kruger National Park with five rhino horns hidden in the vehicle, a hunting rifle with a silencer, ammunition and knives, were convicted for the killing of three rhinos in the park, possession of illegal firearms and ammunition, possession of dangerous weapons and trespassing. Accused one and two were sentenced to 34 years’ imprisonment, while accused three was sentenced to 39 years.

In relation to rhino poaching prosecutions, verdicts were handed down in 36 cases, of which 35 were guilty verdicts and one in not guilty. The cases resulted in the conviction of 45 rhino poachers/rhino horn traffickers, with a conviction rate of 97%.

“The integrated work of the law enforcement agencies, including the SAPS, the Hawks, SANParks, the Environmental Enforcement Fusion Centre, the Environmental Management Inspectorate or Green Scorpions, customs officials, provincial parks authorities and the National Prosecuting Authority has resulted in successful convictions.”

She also encouraged members of the public to continue to report any suspicious activities concerning wildlife to the department’s environmental crime hotline on 0800 205 005, or the SAPS on 10111.

Creecy said no rhinos were poached in any other national parks.

During 2023, 499 rhinos were poached across South Africa; 406 were killed on state properties and 93 on privately owned parks, reserves and farms. This was an increase of 51 in comparison to the 448 rhinos poached in 2022.

She outlined that the decrease of rhino poached in the KNP in 2023 can be attributed to various combined interventions:
• There is strong collaboration between external stakeholders permanently based in the KNP and attending to various wildlife crime cases, such as the Skukuza Stock Theft and Endangered Species Unit, Skukuza SAPS and SAPS forensic teams.

• An extensive and ongoing dehorning programme has been started, which focuses on the dehorning of all rhinos in core areas.
• The continued implementation of the KNP Ranger Services integrity management plan, which is a holistic approach that assesses the drivers and dynamics of corruption, and then addresses these with a comprehensive actions that focus on building individual integrity and organisational resilience to corruption.
• There is improved access control through the installation of automated number plate recognition cameras and gate cameras.
• Radar detection systems that remotely track any illegal entry of poachers on foot into the KNP have been implemented.

She said in the 2023/24 financial year, the department had embarked on a consultative process to revise both the black and white rhinoceros’s biodiversity management plans in line with the provision of the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act.

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