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African rhino poaching rate drops but illegal hunting still threatens the species

By on August 22, 2022 0

African rhino poaching rates have plummeted since 2018, figures show, but thousands are still hunted illegally, threatening the future of the species, experts warn.

In 2015, killings peaked at 5.3% of the species’ population, but last year they fell to 2.3%, according to a report.

Covid-19 lockdowns led to a dramatic reduction in poaching rates in 2020 in several African countries, according to the report’s authors.

However, at least 2,707 rhinos were still poached across Africa between 2018 and last year.

“The global decline in rhino poaching is encouraging, but it remains an acute threat to the survival of these iconic animals,” said Sam Ferreira, chief scientist of an African rhino specialist group.

“To sustain the growth in rhino numbers, it is essential to continue active population management and anti-poaching activities for all subspecies in the various range states.”

The report, written by specialist groups from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and conservation organization Traffic, looked at population trends from 2018 to 2021. It says nine crimes of poaching in 10 has taken place in South Africa, mainly white rhinos in Kruger. National park, home to the world’s largest population of white rhinos, which is ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

As a result, the number of white rhinos in Africa fell by almost 12% – from 18,067 to 15,942 – between 2018 and last year.

In contrast, populations of the rarer critically endangered black rhinos have fallen from 5,495 to 6,195, or just over 12%.

Overall, Africa’s rhino population has increased from an estimated 23,562 in 2018 to 22,137 by the end of 2021.

South Africa lost 394 rhinos to poaching in 2020, while Kenya recorded no rhino poaching that year. The closures are believed to have helped curb illegal hunting.

But as Covid travel restrictions have been lifted, some range states have reported an increase in poaching. Last year, South Africa reported 451 cases and Kenya six.

In Asia, estimates of the number of critically endangered Sumatran rhinos have dropped from 40-78 to 34-47.

But the report says there have been no reports of illegal killing of Sumatran rhinos despite the sharp decline in numbers.

Some 11 cases of rhino poaching have been recorded in Asia – 10 in India and one in Nepal – all of which involved vulnerable one-horned rhinos.

The report will be presented at a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) in Panama in November.