Rhino Poaching Increases in South Africa

Wednesday 10 August 2022


South Africa's Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) have just released the latest statistics on rhino poaching in the country for the first six months of 2022, and the figures continue to give cause for concern.

The report shows that 259 rhinos have been poached in the first six months of this year, 10 more than the same period last year and 57% of the total for 2021. You can read the full statement here.

According to the report, of the 259 rhinos poached, 210 were killed on state property across the country while 49 were poached in private game reserves. What is most alarming is the dramatic increase in rhinos poached in the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal, up from 33 rhinos in the first half of 2021, to 133 in the same period this year. This is more than triple the rhinos killed in the province between January and June last year

Poaching in the Kruger National Park, however, has reduced from 132 in the first half of 2021 to 82 in the first six months of this year, making Kwa-Zulu Natal the new prominent hotspot in South Africa.

During the first six months of 2022, 69 people were apprehended for crimes related to rhino poaching and trafficking of rhino horns, with 13 alleged poachers caught in the Kruger National Park. 

If these poaching figures continue to rise in the same way as the first six months, a potential year-end total of over 500 rhinos could be reached, taking the country’s rhino poaching crisis back to 2019 when nearly 600 rhinos were poached in a single year. 

Add to this the devastating spike in poaching cases in December 2021, where 23 rhino were killed over a 36-hour period, and it is clear that the respite brought about by strict lockdowns in 2020 and the start of 2021 are well and truly over. The poaching threat to rhino is still significant.

“Recent trends in rhino poaching show a move away from the Kruger Park to private reserves and KwaZulu-Natal where the majority of rhinos have been killed this year. This makes it all the more important for national government to shift its focus to supporting provincial authorities and private reserves in the war on rhino poaching”. 

Barbara Creecy
South African Environment Minister

As we mentioned in our half-year and full year poaching stats report for 2021, one of the main reasons for the increase in poaching on the Private Reserves is due to the size of the area. National Parks cover a larger landmass than their privately owned neighbours (for example the Kruger National Park is approximately the size of Israel). Add to this the general decrease in rhino populations in the Kruger over the last decade and it means that poachers will have to spend longer searching for rhino in the Kruger, covering a wider area to track one. By turning to a smaller area, such as a Private Reserve, the task of finding a rhino becomes easier. 

Rhino populations have been drastically reduced over the last ten years and are not able to sustain pressure from poaching and it becomes even more imperative that action must be taken to protect every single rhino. It is clear that there has been a definite increase in poaching numbers year on year since 2019, despite the restrictions of the COVID pandemic, as well a change in location of where poachers are focussing. 

“It is fair to say the message from South Africa this time is mixed. While overall poaching is up compared to this time last year, it has reduced in the previous hotspot of Kruger National Park. Conversely, Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN) has risen significantly and we have felt the impact of that with more orphaned babies arriving at our Zululand Rhino Orphanage, the only dedicated rhino orphanage in KZN.

There is still much to do to ensure we are protecting rhino and the wild spaces they need to thrive. Our work in the Eastern Cape with Kariega Foundation and ARCC is proving to pay dividends with no rhinos poached. This is testament to the dedication of the teams on the ground and in the air carrying out daily patrols." 

Simon Jones
CEO, Helping Rhinos

Helping Rhinos is working closely with organisations on the ground in Africa to not only provide support for urgent anti-poaching measures but looking at ways to create and sustain healthy ecosystems and strong biodiversity for rhino through the creation of Rhino Strongholds. 

Rhino Strongholds will have a rich biodiversity and a healthy ecosystem that benefits a wide variety of both fauna and flora species. The areas will have scope to increase in size through the restoration of degraded habitat and the dropping of fences between already established wildlife areas. They will provide the best possible security to reduce the risk of rhino poaching and are large enough to allow the rhino to demonstrate natural behaviours, including migration between territories and genetically diverse breeding. 

Local communities will be integral to the success of Rhino Strongholds, which will provide employment opportunities and engage local people in wildlife conservation through education programmes and initiatives that improve livelihoods. You can find out more about our Rhino Strongholds initiative and the work currently underway here.

The protection of rhinos in South Africa is a responsibility that falls upon all of us, wherever we live in the world.