Rhino poaching in South Africa has declined steadily in the past five years thanks to the involvement of local communities in national conservation projects, according to the environment minister.
The country has one of the largest rhino populations but is battling organized poaching gangs targeting its national and private parks.
While horns are widely believed to hold aphrodisiac properties, scientists say this is not so.
“We will redouble our efforts to make sure that communities who live on the borders of our parks benefit from conservation and the biodiversity economy so they are not vulnerable to recruitment by syndicated poaching operations,” Barbara Creecy, the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, said in a statement Sunday.
Creecy’s remarks came as the world marks World Rhino Day, a day set aside to highlight the importance of protecting the vulnerable species.
The minister also noted that the decline in rhino poaching was in part due to tougher court prosecutions and anti-poaching strategies, such as specialised sniffer dogs to help detect smuggled horns.
From January to June 2019, the number of rhino poached countrywide stood at 318, compared to 386 killed during the same period last year, Creecy said.
More than half of the rhinos killed this year – 190 animals – were found in South Africa’s vast Kruger National Park in the north of the country, where a total of 1,202 incursions and poacher activities were reported in the first six months to June.
“Although the battle to end poaching is far from over, we are proud to say that our efforts as a government, as private rhino owners, and as concerned citizens, are paying dividends as we continue to implement the Integrated Strategic Approach to the management of rhino,” said Creecy.