The department of environment, forestry and fisheries stated in a recent media release that rhino poaching in South Africa had decreased by almost 53% in the first six months of 2020.
166 animals were killed for their horns across the country since the beginning of the year.
In comparison, during the first six months of 2019, 316 rhino were poached.
“After a decade of implementing various strategies and campaigning against the ever-increasing rhino poaching by local poachers recruited and managed by crime syndicates, efforts are paying off,” said minister of the department Barbara Creecy.
The minister said with the Covid-19 coronavirus measures restricting movement, the decline in rhino poaching compared to the same period last year was striking.
In the Kruger National Park (KNP), during April, no rhinos were killed in the intensive protection zone for the first time in almost 10 years.
Between the start of the lockdown on March 27 until the end of June, 46 rhinos were poached across the country.
Of these, 14 were poached during April, 13 in May and 19 in June. In the KNP, 88 rhinos were poached in the first six months of 2020.
As the lockdown restrictions have gradually been lifted the rhino poaching incidents have slowly increased.
Between January and June, 38 suspected rhino poachers were arrested in the KNP and 23 firearms were confiscated.
Joint SANParks environmental crime investigators and SAPS operations outside of the KNP have resulted in the arrest of 57 suspects and 18 firearms recovered.
Despite attempts to smuggle rhino horns valued at around R115 million through OR Tambo International Airport in the first two weeks of July, the decrease in rhino poaching can also be attributed to the disruption of the supply chain resulting from the national travel restrictions, including limitations placed on movement across the country.
“The diligence of Sars customs officials and members of the Green Scorpions that resulted in the consignments being uncovered, and the resulting arrest by the Hawks of a shipping agent, is a prime example of the excellent relationship and teamwork between departments and entities to stamp out the illicit trade in rhino horns and other wildlife products,” said Creecy.
Keeping in mind the disruptions the lockdown caused, the performance data when it comes to rhino-related prosecutions indicated that 23 accused were convicted.
During the January to June reporting period, the National Prosecuting Authority managed to, not only obtain convictions in 15 cases, but maintained a remarkable conviction rate of 100%. Lengthy sentences were also imposed by the courts.
This article first appeared on Lowvelder and was republished with permission.