The number of rhinos poached for their horns in South Africa decreased slightly in 2022 but more must be done to save them in provincial parks, the environment ministry said on Monday.
A total of 448 rhinos were illegally killed countrywide last year, three fewer than in 2021. However, the figures are still higher than they were the year before, when COVID-19 restrictions in South Africa led to a fall in poaching.
Demand for rhino horns has decimated their population over the decades in South Africa and neighboring Botswana and Namibia. The poaching often involves international criminal syndicates and local poachers, who smuggle the horns internationally.
They are seen as a supposed medicine and jewelry in some East Asian countries.
Rhino poaching has seen a decline in South Africa’s national parks due to dehorning programs, increased vigilance and collaboration between authorities on their conservation, Environment Minister Barbara Creecy said.
However, she appealed to provincial authorities to do more, saying the poachers have now shifted their focus from national parks to provincial parks and private game reserves in the KwaZulu-Natal province.
“We believe that if provincial authorities in KwaZulu-Natal follow our model, they will be able to significantly curb rhino poaching in their provincial parks before it is too late,” Creecy said.
South Africa is home to the world’s largest population of near-threatened white rhinos and about half of the total endangered black rhino population on the African continent.