The number of rhinos killed in South Africa in 2020 fell 33%, official sources learned on Monday, a sharp drop in poaching due in part to movement restrictions to stem COVID-19.
But those gains were immediately reduced as soon as the movement restrictions were lifted. And they are concomitant with a sharp decline in the rhino population in the country in recent years.
At least 394 rhinos were slaughtered in 2020, compared to 594 in 2019, Environment Minister Barbara Creecy said in a statement.
Most of the rhinos – 245 – were killed in Kruger National Park, a tourist park on the border with Mozambique.
“During the harshest period of the Covid-19 containment, we have seen a significant reduction in poaching incursions into the Kruger,” Ms. Creecy said.
“However, that changed later in the year, when containment levels eased and a significant resumption of poaching was recorded towards the end of 2020, especially in December,” she said.
South Africa, home to nearly 80% of the planet’s rhino population, has seen the number of specimens killed decline steadily for the sixth year in a row.
But poachers, responding to the strong demand for rhino horns from Asia, where they are used in traditional medicine or for their alleged aphrodisiac virtue, continue their raids and attacks.
For Minister Creecy, this drop in poaching acts in 2020 is a “small victory”. But anti-poaching campaigns must not be slackened because the demand for horns is always higher.
For environmentalists and the opposition, these latest figures ignore the general decline in the rhino population.
“For a number of years, we have wondered about the exact size of the white and black rhino population … In the end, if there are fewer rhinos, they become much more difficult for them to find. poachers, ”said Julian Rademeyer, director for East and South Africa of the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said for its part to have observed a decrease of “nearly 70%” of the rhino population in the Kruger National Park during the last decade, as a result of drought and poaching.
A recent report released this year by the government agency for national parks showed that there are only 3,549 white rhinos and 268 black rhinos left in the Kruger.
These figures “paint a grim picture of the future survival of rhinos in South Africa,” commented the largest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance.