Rhino poaching declines dramatically in South Africa during COVID-19 lockdown

A black rhino (Diceros bicornis) in Etosha national park, Namibia. (Photo by: Juan Giribet/VWPics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
A black rhino (Diceros bicornis) in Etosha national park, Namibia. (Photo by: Juan Giribet/VWPics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

The number of rhinos killed in South Africa’s national parks dropped by 33% last year. The country’s environmental ministry said COVID-19 restrictions helped contribute to the decline by reducing movements of would-be poachers and horn smugglers around the country.

In 2020, a record 394 rhinos were killed for their horns, a fall of 33% from the 594 recorded in 2019, the environment ministry said.

It is the sixth year that recorded incidents in the country have fallen.

But conservationists warn that the rhino population in South Africa has plummeted in recent years and that poaching remains a big problem.

Environment Minister Barbara Creecy said strict measures to prevent the spread of Covid 19 infections last year had led to “a significant reduction in poacher incursions” to the world-famous Kruger National Park, bordering Mozambique.

“However, that changed later in the year as the lockdown levels eased,” she said in a statement published on Monday.

Ms Creecy further said that significant arrests of poachers had also been made, thanks to cooperation between law enforcement agencies and prosecutors, resulting in a 97.8% conviction rate of poachers that have been prosecuted.

(With input from agencies)