Rhino poaching in South Africa reaches all-time high12/01/2011 12:47:00 Killings continue unabated in first days of 2011. Rhino poaching averages nearly one per day in 2010
January 2011. A total of 333 rhinos were illegally killed in South Africa in 2010, including ten critically endangered black rhinos, according to national park officials. The yearly total is the highest ever experienced in South Africa and nearly three times the 2009 figure when 122 rhinos were killed in the country. An additional five rhinos have been lost to poaching since the New Year.
146 rhinos killed in the Kruger in 2009
The first alarming yearly spike occurred in 2008 when 83 rhinos were lost. South Africa has responded by intensifying its law enforcement efforts, and made approximately 162 poaching arrests last year.
"Many more successful convictions, backed up by appropriately daunting penalties will significantly demonstrate the South African government's commitment to preventing the clouding of the country's excellent rhino conservation track record that it has built up over the past several decades," said Dr. Morné du Plessis, CEO of WWF South Africa.
The current wave of poaching is being committed by sophisticated criminal networks using helicopters, night-vision equipment, veterinary tranquilisers and silencers to kill rhinos at night while attempting to avoid law enforcement patrols.
"The criminal syndicates operating in South Africa are highly organised and use advanced technologies. They are very well coordinated," said Dr. Joseph Okori, WWF African Rhino Programme Manager. "This is not typical poaching."
Huge increase for rhino horn in Asia
"Only a concerted international enforcement pincer movement, at both ends of the supply and demand chain, can hope to nip this rhino poaching crisis in the bud," said Tom Milliken, Director of TRAFFIC's East and Southern Africa programme.
21000 rhinos in South Africa
Black rhinos are listed as critically endangered with only about 4,200 remaining in existence, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Approximately 1,670 black rhinos were believed to be living in South Africa in 2009. The country's other resident species, white rhinos, are classified as near threatened on IUCN's Red List of threatened species.
Huge recovery in rhino numbers in last 100 years
Consumers of rhino horn across Asia, and in Vietnam in particular, are now seriously compromising this achievement by motivating criminal groups to kill rhinos. In order to halt this massacre, substantial resources need to go into law enforcement, both in Africa and in Asian consumer countries where all trade in rhino horn is illegal," said Dr. du Plessis.
This is done by forming partnerships with owners of large areas of natural black rhino habitat. So far, 98 black rhino have been translocated to new range lands and at least 26 calves have been born on project sites.
In December 2010, South Africa's Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Authority committed to donating 20 black rhino to the project in an effort to aid South Africa in reaching its national target of 5,000 black rhinos. In October 2010, TRAFFIC facilitated a visit of five South African officials to Vietnam to discuss strategies for combating the illegal rhino horn trade. TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, is a joint programme of WWF and IUCN.