Wild animals are poached and traded globally on a massive scale, with millions of individual animals of thousands of species worldwide killed or captured and removed from their native habitats.
There are 5 remaining species of rhino. Two live in Africa, black and white rhino. They have been living on the planet for 40 million years. Although, poaching poses a significant threat to many animals, black rhinos are classed as critically endangered and white rhino as near threatened on the IUCN Red List Classification.
As rhino are an umbrella species, when rhino are protected by rangers and scientists, many other species sharing their habitat are also protected. A continuing poaching crisis may lead to not only the extinction of the rhino but it threatens the future of other species too. Animals such as elephants, lions, leopards, as well as smaller creatures, like certain lizards and monkeys, are also the target of illegal poaching.
Rhino are poached for their horns. Rhino horn is a valuable commodity. Gram for gram, it is the most expensive commodity on the planet. Those who are responsible for the demand for rhino horn are often unaware of the consequences these animals face in order to satisfy their needs.
South Africa has the largest population of rhinos in the world. It is home to nearly 80 per cent of the world’s rhinos, so it is little surprise that is it an extremely important country for their conservation. From 2007-2014, South Africa experienced an alarming rise in rhino poaching – a growth of over 9,000%*.
The Greater Kruger area is home to South Africa’s largest rhino populations. The area continues to suffer heavy poaching losses. Over the last few years, the government, as well as non-profit entities, such as GKEPF and its partners, have committed more funding and developed more resources to help combat animal crime.
From 2008 to 2015, an increasing number of rhinos across Africa were poached for their horn. For the past few years, however, the total number of rhinos poached has decreased.
At the start of 2019, the South African Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), released its 2018 poaching numbers. On the surface, the numbers are positive – they indicated a decrease of 259 (1,028 rhino were poached in 2017). Yet, whilst it is encouraging to note this dip, it does not mean that the rhino population is thriving or that counter-poaching efforts can relax. The figures still indicate that two rhinos are killed each day.
Every day, the Greater Kruger area, alarmingly, has multiple groups of poachers (usually made up of three people) entering and exiting the park.