Posted Feb 8 in The Conversation. Keith Somerville, University of Kent, visiting professor
The number of rhinos poached in South Africa in 2017 was lower than 2016’s, according toSouth African Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa. Last year, 1028 rhinos were killed compared to 1054 in 2016, a decrease of 26 animals (2.5%). But it’s the fifth year running that over 1000 rhinos were killed.
TRAFFIC the international wildlife trade monitoring group, states that 5476 rhinos were killed in South Africa over a five year period. This is from an estimated rhino populations at the end of 2010 of 18 796 white and 1916 black rhino in the country. South Africa has about 93% of the world’s white rhino population and 40% of its black rhinos.
Tom Milliken, TRAFFIC’s Rhino Programme Leader, said:
The marginally lower total in 2017 still remains unacceptably high and with close to three rhinos illegally killed in South Africa every single day…the crisis continues
Anti-poaching operations in the world famous Kruger National Park have achieved considerable success. But rhino poaching has soared in KwaZulu-Natal and several other provinces. The Kruger has increased patrols, the size and sophistication of anti-poaching units and worked with the South African army to secure the areas with the largest rhino populations, but smaller parks and reserves do not have the resources to do this.
The biggest danger is that poaching is changing focus by moving from concentration on the Kruger National Park to other provinces and reserves, which lack Kruger’s resources.
In particular, there are concerns about rhino killings in KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape, Mpumalanga, Free State and North West.
Milliken pointed to the dysfunctional National Prosecuting Authority and Crime Intelligence division of South Africa’s police.
Poachers are often caught but prosecutions are slow and sentences light.
Cathy Dean, CEO of the British based Save the Rhino NGO is particularly concerned about the KwaZulu-Natal poaching crisis and the failure of the justice system. The inability to do anything to speed up the prosecution of alleged poaching kingpins who have been charged with poaching but not come to court, like Hugo Ras, Dawie Groenewald, ‘Big Joe’ Nyalunga and Dumisani Gwala, whose trials have been repeatedly delayed by incompetence in the justice system or the seeming lack of enthusiasm of the law enforcement and prosecuting authorities to make it a priority is concerning.
Corruption and mismanagement in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal have been alleged and blamed for the failure to cope with the rise in poaching there, with under funding and staff morale major issues.
Poaching networks and the smuggling rings linked to them are flexible and feed off incompetence, mismanagement and corruption.
These problems are at the heart of politics, national and local government in South Africa. Until they are cracked, the killing will go on.