Half year poaching numbers in South Africa show a ‘modest decline’, but there is still work to be done

Thursday 01 August 2019

The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries in South Africa have released poaching numbers for the first half of 2019.

In the first six months of this year, 318 rhino have been poached countrywide, a modest decline of 68 incidents over the same period last year. From January to June 2019, 253 poaching related arrests were made nationally, with 122 of those taking place within the Kruger National Park. These arrests include rhino horn trafficking as well as poaching.

Whilst these figures represent a slight decline in the equivalent period from last year, and are an indication of the commitment and hard work being done to fight poaching both in the field and internationally, there is still a need for caution. When transferred into a daily reality, these numbers still mean that two rhinos are poached per day in South Africa. That's two too many rhinos.

There are a couple of points worth emphasizing when considering these latest numbers:

  1. National statistics are an accurate representation of rhino losses but not an accurate assessment of the state of the rhino population and its potential to recover. The true measure of progress can only be made when national rhino population figures are released indicating what percentage is dying year on year.
  2. The number of arrests linked to rhino poaching and rhino horn trafficking are not indicative of convictions. Indeed, figures linked to actual convictions for rhino poaching are not released. Arrests do not always lead to convictions, or poachers are released on bail pending trial. This can take months, if not years to be resolved.

Whilst this is a step in the right direction, it is important to remember that if a rhino is found poached, something somewhere has gone wrong with the anti-poaching strategy. These six-month statistics do suggest that improvements to anti-poaching strategies have acted as a deterrent to poachers and that more arrests are as result of this.

However, we also need to look at 'poacher effort', i.e. the number of times a poacher attempts to poach a rhino, whether successful or not. The work done by the Black Mambas in Balule have shown that an increase in patrols in the area and integration with local communities have meant that poachers only succeed in killing a rhino 17 times in every 100 attempts. This is good news but highlights that fact that there is still work to be done in local communities to deter poaching in the first place.

New technology such as remote sensing and drones has also played a key role in helping make anti-poaching activities more effective.

These half-year figures are good news, but it is also a time for caution. The loss of a single rhino now is more damaging to the species than the loss of 10 rhino five to ten years ago. We must not rest on our laurels, and with your continued support we will ensure that the rhino has a future on our planet.




can help pay for

Essential food and medication for a rhino orphan



can help pay for

Community programmes that improve livelihoods



can help pay for

 Training of anti-poaching teams and tracking dogs


Choose your own amount