For the first time since 2008, South Africa saw a drastic decline in rhino poaching in the year 2015. The poaching, which was fueled by an Asian-led demand for the horn where it is believed to have aphrodisiac powers or beneficial medicinal qualities, was said to have dropped with a total number of 1, 175 poached rhinos, as against the 1, 215 poached rhinos obtained in 2014.
Though the number is yet to be close to the 2007 statistics which had only 13 poached rhinos, the Minister of South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa announced that the new 2015 statistics saying that it’s a sign of improvement. “Considering that this is…in the face of an increased and relentless rise of poaching activity into protected areas—this is very, very good news,” she said.
The minister further announced that places like the Kruger National Park which is considered the home of about 8,400 and 9,300 rhinos still has the highest number of rhinos poached. He added that about 202 poachers were arrested in the park last year, and another 115 were arrested just outside it.
Rhinos were once abundant throughout Africa and Asia with an approximated worldwide population of 500 000 in the early twentieth century and South Africa having bout 80 percent of the world’s population. However, despite intensive conservation efforts, poaching of this iconic species is dramatically increasing, pushing the remaining rhinos closer and closer towards extinction.
South African governments have been able to take important actions against t rhino poaching. but despite all that, the degree still remains high. Some conservationists who do not agree with the said drop in rhino poaching said by lifting the ban on domestic trade in November last year, poaching is bound to increase which could also lead to rhinos death overshadowing birth by 2018.
Further more, as the South African government plans to release its own 2015 statistics on rhino poaching early this year, conservationist Allison Thomson, who believes the number of rhinos poached in 2015 is higher than 1, 160, wrote in an email to the Associated Press that there was an increased rhino orphans whose mothers were killed by poachers.
“The stats do not reflect the collateral damage of rhinos that died subsequent to being a victim of an attempted poaching and all the carcasses that lie in the bush yet to be found,” Thomson said speculating that he government sought to downplay the rhino poaching problem by issuing less frequent updates on poaching statistics
However, South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs Minister, Edna Molewa said the government is still committed to providing accurate, timely information.