Rhino Poaching Down But For How Long?

Thursday 28 May 2020

South Africa’s Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy has announced in a statement that the country has experienced a significant decline in rhino poaching since the COVID-19 related lockdown was imposed. 

This is clearly good news for rhinos, but it must also be noted that the ‘bubble’ created by the lockdown will be removed sooner rather than later and the risk of a return to full scale poaching remains high according to a report published in April by United for Wildlife. 

In her statement, Minister Creecy announced that:

  • April saw the fewest number of rhino poached in Kruger National Park (KNP) in a single month since September 2013
  • 14 rhino were poached in South Africa in April 2020 (the first month of lockdown) compared to 46 in March 2020
  • 5 rhino were poached in the KNP in April 2020
  • Significantly NO rhino were poached in KNP’s Intensive Protection Zone in a single month for the first time since 2007
  • Incursions into the KNP have continued 

Click to read Minister Creecy's statement in full.

How Has Lockdown Had Such an Impact on Rhino Poaching?

With movement around the country becoming more difficult, the closure of international airspace and the gates remaining locked to many National Parks and wildlife Reserves (making it more difficult for poachers to use traditional drop off and pick up methods), the supply chain of rhino horn to Asia has been severely interrupted. 

It is widely accepted that virtually all incidents of rhino poaching will require some form of ‘insider’ information. As tourism has dried up overnight, many National Parks and wildlife Reserves have sent their staff home, meaning the ‘insider’ may no longer be on the inside and able to provide essential information to the poachers.

“Realistically, rhino horn has to move out of the country. The market is overseas in China and Vietnam, so thanks to the virus the supply and demand trade has been interrupted tremendously”.

Craig Spencer
Founder, Black Mambas


“It is imperative that we learn the lessons from the past and ensure it is the conservationists that come back stronger when the poachers return. To achieve this we will need the support of each and everyone of our supporters around the world, and we can’t thank you enough for standing with us at these difficult times”.

Simon Jones
CEO, Helping Rhinos

This is absolutely not a time for celebrations. It is a time to regroup and prepare for when the Borders reopen and movement around the landscape returns to some form of normality. 

We have seen in the past that when a lull in poaching has occurred, the poachers take the time to regroup and come back stronger. It is critical that this time it is the conservationists who stay one step ahead.

An analysis commissioned by United for Wildlife concluded that: 
“unless dramatic steps are taken by governments to diminish the social status and increase the stigma of owning and trading in wildlife products, the market for them may return to full strength by 2022.”

The decline in rhinos poached in South Africa is a very welcome piece of good news, but the impact to conservation of a likely global economic recession that could last a decade means that the rhino continues to need us now more than ever. 

It is imperative that the world remains on high alert and that we use the time this welcome ‘pause’ in poaching has presented us with to ensure we can respond rapidly when the expected return of the poachers arrives. 

How Can You Help?

We understand these are unprecedented times, but if you can, please consider making a donation to allow us to continue our work and to ensure that when the poachers return we have a rapid response for rhinos.



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Essential food and medication for a rhino orphan



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Community programmes that improve livelihoods



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 Training of anti-poaching teams and tracking dogs


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