Kruger National Park, home to the world’s largest concentration of rhinoceroses, has lost two thirds of its animals to poaching over the past decade, according to new data.
Reports of a decline in the number of rhinos being poached in recent years had offered some hope for efforts to prevent their extinction. However, the latest figures suggest that their growing scarcity has contributed to that downward trend as much as anti-poaching measures, or a reduced demand from Asia, where rhino horn fetches £55,000 a kilo.
Wildlife authorities have typically been reluctant to release information about Kruger’s rhinos, but a 65 per cent fall in the population since 2011 is disclosed in the latest annual report of Sanparks, which runs the vast reserve.
Charlie Mayhew, head of the British conservation charity Tusk which helps to fund anti-poaching measures in Kruger, said the figures were “incredibly alarming and suggest that the reductions in poaching are because there are fewer left to poach”
The park’s white rhinos, which are predominantly targeted because of their larger horns and more open habitat, have dropped in number since 2011 from 10,621 to 3,529, according to Sanparks. In the same period, Kruger’s black rhinos, which are classified as critically endangered, are estimated to number 268, down from 415.
David Bryant, the shadow environment minister, said he was not surprised by the numbers, and called on the government to do more.
“Sanparks have repeatedly stated that rhino poaching is declining but this is not what we are hearing from people on the ground. Tourists are reporting very low numbers of sightings,” he told The Times. “The ANC government must do more to protect these magnificent animals for future generations and I hope the international community will stand with us in pressuring them to do so.”
Kruger, which is the size of Israel and has a 300-mile border with Mozambique which makes it tough to police, has been relentlessly targeted by poaching gangs as the economies of Vietnam and China have grown.
Rhino horn is coveted in their illegal markets as status symbols and for use in traditional medicine. In 2007 South Africa recorded 13 rhinos killed by poachers, but by 2014 deaths had risen to 1,215.
At the height of the poaching frenzy the country sent a number of its rhino to neighbouring Botswana, considered a safe haven for wildlife.
However, poaching gangs have increasingly turned their attention to the Okavango Delta, Botswana’s vast wilderness and a Unesco world heritage site, where the slaughter has left the black rhino population inviable.
Last year Botswana’s government announced it would dehorn its remaining wild rhino population in a bid to make them less attractive to poachers.
Original article: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/two-thirds-of-rhinos-in-south-africa-s-kruger-park-lost-to-poachers-in-a-decade-tp9xmztbb