A record number of rhinos were killed by poachers across Africa last year, driven by demand in the Far East for their horn.
The number slaughtered in their heartland in South Africa, which has four-fifths of the continent’s rhino, dipped for the first time since the crisis exploded nearly a decade ago.
But increases in the number of rhino poached in Nambia and Zimbabwe offset the small signs of hope in South Africa, leading to a record 1,338 to be killed continent-wide. A total of 5,940 have been poached since 2008.
Conservationists said it was possible that a clampdown by authorities in South Africa, where ministers have stepped up efforts against an illegal trade that they say threatens the tourism industry, have led to organised criminals moving their operations.
“They [poachers] operate like an amoeba so if you push in one place they expand elsewhere. What you may be seeing is a response at the regional level, where increased pressure in South Africa makes it more difficult for operatives to operate, having a response elsewhere,” said Mike Knight, chair of the respected International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s African rhino specialist group.
The group met in late February at South Africa’s Kruger, a vast national park and poaching hotspot that is the size of Belgium and has a 1,000km border with Mozambique. The meeting heard that although record numbers of rhino were killed in 2015, the rate of increase across Africa had slowed.
South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe are home to 95% of Africa’s rhino.
According to Knight, the war cannot be won in the parks but outside protected areas. This, he believes can only be done through intelligence, that has to come from whole government response which includes customs and excise. And the police.
Source: The Guardian Uk