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Number of rhinos poached in 2018 drops, except in Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga

Feb 14, 2019
Number of rhinos poached in 2018 drops, except in Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga

According to a report by Minister of Environmental Affairs, Nomvula Mokonyane, efforts to save the rhino bore fruits last year with a huge reduction in rhinos killed by poachers.

"As a result, 2018 recorded a decrease in rhino poaching incidents to 769, making it the third consecutive year that South Africa has seen a decline in rhino poaching, particularly in the national parks," she said.

"This is a decrease of 259 rhino compared to 2017 when 1 028 rhino were killed for their horns. It is also the first time in 5 years that the annual figure is under 1000."

The Minister said that the Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros approach was adopted by Cabinet in 2014 and draws together the work of the Department of Environmental Affairs together with the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster Departments and Agencies.

“The decline is not only indicative of the successful implementation of the Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros Approach countrywide, but also a confirmation of the commitment and dedication of the men and women working at the coalface to save the species,” said Minister Mokonyane.

Breakdown of poaching incidents in 2018 is as follows:

North West9665
Eastern Cape1219
Free State3816
Northern Cape2412
Kwa-Zulu Natal222142
Western Cape


A total of 421 rhino were poached in the Kruger National Park, 16.5% less than the 504 poached in 2017, and one was poached at the Marakhele National Park.

“Combating rhino poaching remains a national priority, and as such, all the relevant government departments will continue their close collaboration to ensure that this iconic species is conserved for generations to come.  Although we are encouraged by the national poaching figures for 2018, it is critical that we continue to implement collaborative initiatives to address the scourge of rhino poaching,” said Minister Mokonyane.

From 1 January to 31 December 2018, a total of 365 alleged rhino poachers and 36 alleged rhino horn traffickers were arrested nationally. A total of 229 alleged poachers were arrested inside and adjacent to the Kruger National Park, 40 more than the 189 arrested in 2017.  

There are currently 318 rhino poaching-related cases on the court roll involving 645 accused and 897 charges.  275 of these cases are trial-ready.

From January to December 2018, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) obtained convictions in 78 of the 82 cases that went to trial.  This represents a 95.1% conviction rate. The 78 cases involved 135 accused, all of whom were convicted of rhino poaching and related matters and this translated into sentences of over 500 years imprisonment in respect of these guilty verdicts.

Elephant poaching now on the increase

"Regrettably, elephant poaching is also on the increase. A total of 71 elephants were poached in the Kruger National Park between 1 January and 31 December 2018," the Minister said. 

"Specific risk areas have been identified and strategies to address the threat are being adapted and implemented. One elephant was killed in KwaZulu/Natal which brings the total for South Africa to 72 elephant for 2018.

"Government recognises that international cooperation remains a critical component of our overall response strategy (both at a regional and international level) to halt rhino and elephant poaching, and all related wildlife crime."

She said that apart from the good cooperation between all Security Cluster members, cooperation with private rhino owners is commendable and most beneficial to efforts against poaching.

"This is complimented by the excellent support from the local industry, NGO’s and South Africans at large.

“As South Africa we continue to engage countries where rhino horn seizures take place in order to request that samples of the rhino horn DNA be sent to South Africa for analysis in line with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) resolutions. This enables us to link these seized horns to poaching cases and live rhino or rhino horn stockpiles, thus providing key information to further support investigations and understand transit routes.

“We are also proud as a country of our world-class DNA laboratory and bank against which we may compare rhino horn DNA and trace it to the exact cases of poaching or Rhino in our country,” said Minister Mokonyane.  

The Department of Environmental Affairs calls on members of the public to report any suspicious activities around wildlife to its environmental crime hotline which is 0800 205 005 or the SAPS number 10111.

To access the details statement on the implementation of the Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros, click on the link: » Progress on the Implementation of the Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros.

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