Rhino Poaching in 2022

Tuesday 07 February 2023

South Africa's Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) have released the official poaching statistics for the full year 2022. 

Despite Minister Barbara Creecy’s claim in her statement that “South Africa’s relentless fight against rhino poaching in the Kruger Park and other national parks saw a decline in poaching numbers across the country” this latest report should not make happy reading to anyone who looks beyond the headlines. 

A first look at the high level numbers reveal that across the country as a whole, the level of poaching remained consistent to 2021 (448 rhino poached in 2022 versus 451 in 2021). As confirmed by Minister Creecy, the traditional epicentre of the poachers activity, Kruger National Park, saw a sharp decline in poaching (124 in 2022 versus 209 in 2021 – a 40% reduction). 

However, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) saw an enormous increase in rhinos killed at the hands of poachers (244 in 2022 versus 102 in 2021). Of the 244 rhinos killed in KZN, 228 carcasses were found on the provincial state park Hluhluwe iMfolozi and 16 were lost on privately owned Game Reserves. 

Minister Creecy’s statement that “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” seems a blatant attempt to absolve the national Government of responsibility for the ‘new epicentre’ of rhino poaching.  This must be a time for authorities, private rhino owners, NGO’s and conservationists to come together, share best practices and present a united front against the poaching syndicates. 

132 arrests were made in relation to rhino poaching in South Africa in 2022. This is 100 less than in 2011 when the number of rhinos poached was exactly the same as 2022 (448). Why after a decade of developing intelligence gathering networks and enhanced anti-poaching operations, 100 fewer poachers were arrested is another area that needs further explanation from the authorities.

To truly understand the impact of the latest poaching numbers, more information is needed – information that is unfortunately not forthcoming from the South African Government. 

For example, while the headline message from Kruger National Park (KNP) looks incredibly positive, what is needed to fully analyse the trend is year on year rhino population numbers for KNP. It is widely accepted that due to the level of poaching in KNP over the last decade, combined with a proactive policy to translocate rhinos from KNP to other secure locations in the country, the population of KNP rhinos has decreased significantly. It is therefore logical to expect the poaching numbers to also decrease. A better measure of success on the anti-poaching activity in the world famous Park would be a ratio of rhinos poached to the Park’s population.

"When KwaZulu-Natal's numbers are double what they were for 2021, even with the effects of covid on the supply and demand chain, and then to in any way infer that poaching statistics are down, is disingenuous.

It saddens me to see that Minister Creecy considers the KZN parks different and perhaps of lesser importance than our 'National Parks', on paper they are Provincial Parks, and yet these parks are the reason why we still have rhinos in our national parks today.

It would have been prudent for the minister to recognise the role that private conservation areas and provincial parks have played in the protection of rhinos."

Craig Spencer
Founder, the Black Mambas all femaile anti-poaching unit

Helping Rhinos calls on the South African Government to release fully transparent datasets to allow meaningful analysis of the current level of poaching across the country. This analysis will inform both national and international organisations on how a collaborative approach, from Government down, will maximise our collective efforts and ensure that available resources, both financial and human, are allocated to the areas where they are needed most and will have the maximum impact. 

Helping Rhinos' Impact

Despite the need for more data and detailed analysis, some trends are clear from the recently released statistics. As stated above, KZN is now the new epicentre of the poachers activity, and Helping Rhinos is proud to have the only dedicated rhino orphanage facility in the Province. The Zululand Rhino Orphanage (ZRO) currently has seven rescued orphans whom we are rehabilitating ready for a life back in the wild. ZRO has a Memorandum of Understanding with Ezemvelo Wildlife (the entity responsible for the running of the Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park (HiP)) to take in all orphaned rhino calves rescued. Given the significant increase in poaching within HiP, our facility is of greater importance now that at any time in its history. 

We will continue to support Ranger patrols both on the ground, such as the Black Mambas all female anti-poaching unit, and in the air such as our ‘Eyes in the Sky’ programme, while researching ground breaking technology to make the protection of rhino and their natural environment an ever more effective and efficient process. 

How You Can Help

Despite the concerning poaching statistics for 2022, we are proud to state that at Helping Rhinos funded projects, only 2 rhinos have been lost to poachers in the last 3 years. This is thanks to the amazing support we receive from around the world that allows us to continue our work of creating and protecting Rhino Strongholds

Please continue to support us and enable us to keep helping rhinos.