South Africa’s Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy, has announced that South Africa has experienced a significant decline in rhino poaching since the lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus commenced. According to Minister Creecy, April 2020 saw a marked decrease in rhino poaching countrywide, with the fewest rhinos poached in the Kruger National Park in a single month since September 2013.
A total of 14 rhino were poached across the country during April 2020 – the first month of the national Covid-19 lockdown. A total of 46 rhino were poached nationwide in March 2020. In Kruger National Park five rhino were poached during April 2020, compared to 46 in April 2019. In KwaZulu-Natal six rhino were poached, two were killed in Mpumalanga and one in North West Province. In April 2019, a total of 61 rhino were poached nationwide.
Significantly, not a single rhino has been lost in the Intensive Protection Zone of Kruger National Park since the start of April 2020. This has not happened in this particular part of the Greater Kruger area in a single month since 2007.
The sharp decrease in rhino poaching in Kruger National Park in April 2020 comes after the park recorded that the number of births equalled the combined natural and poaching deaths for the first time in five years by the end of 2019.
Between January and April 2020, 33 poachers were arrested and 20 heavy calibre firearms confiscated.
Reasons for the decline of rhino poaching in South Africa during the lockdown:
- disruption of the supply chain resulting from the national travel restrictions, including limitations placed on movement across South Africa
- closure of South Africa’s borders and the complete shutdown of international air travel removed the key way that syndicates used to supply horn to transit and consumer countries
- increase in the effectiveness of the K9 Anti-Poaching Unit using free running hounds supported by rapid reaction through air support and improved mobility
- South African National Parks (SANParks) has closed park entrance gates to tourists due to the national lockdown. This has had an impact on poaching as poachers are now unable to use drive-in and drop-off tactics they had previously utilised to kill rhino for their horn