JOHANNESBURG- A slight decline in the number of rhino slaughtered in South Africa in 2017 has been recorded according to the Environmental Affairs minister, Edna Molewa.
Releasing the figures in Pretoria on Thursday, Molewa said that 1 028 rhino were poached from 1 January 2017 to 31 December 2017 compared to 1 054 in the same period for 2016.
Molewa said that while those killed for their horns in the Kruger National Park had decreased in the past year, there was an increase in rhino killing in five provinces including KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape, Mpumalanga, Free State and North West.
“As a result of our anti-poaching strategy in the KNP, we are now seeing a decrease in the number of poacher activities in the park with a total of 2 662 recorded in 2017 compared with 2 883 in 2016. This represents a percentage decrease of 7, 6%.
She also expressed worry about scores of elephants poached in the Kruger National Park.
“It is with concern that we also report that in 2017, 67 elephants were poached in the Kruger National Park and one was poached in KwaZulu-Natal. Specific risk areas have been identified and strategies to address the threat are being adapted and implemented,” she said.
Molewa announced that 502 alleged rhino poachers 16 traffickers were nabbed last year. This showed a decline in the number of poachers who were arrested in 2016. Nearly 450 poachers were arrested in the Kruger National Park.
A total of 21 officials were also arrested for poaching related offences.
She said that poaching syndicates were now using new methods to “process horn and smuggle it” out of South Africa.
“The Hawks have determined that there are a number of new trends linked to rhino poaching in South Africa. Smugglers are coming up with new ways and methods to process horn and smuggle it out. This has also been observed in Mozambique and the Hawks are currently communicating with national and transnational law enforcement agencies on the new trends of trafficking rhino horns,” she said.
Reacting to the figures, Dr Jo Shaw, African Rhino Lead for WWF International said that poaching was also impacting on communities living around parks.
“Wildlife trafficking remains a pervasive threat to rhinos, and increasingly to other species such as elephants and lions which bring tourists and jobs to our important protected areas. These crimes also affect people living around our parks by exposing them to criminals connected to international trafficking syndicates,” He said.
Shaw also said that the public and private sectors should work together in combating wildlife trafficking.